CHILLIWACK, B.C. — The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed Canada’s most recent case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
The finding marks the fifth case of mad cow disease linked to Canadian cattle since its discovery on an Alberta farm in 2003. In this most recent case the CFIA noted no part of the six-year-old animal had entered the human food or animal feed system, ensuring the safety of Canadian beef.
“The discovery of the suspect animal demonstrates once again the effectiveness of the Canadian surveillance system,” noted Dr. Chris Clark, technical advisor on BSE to the Canada Beef Export Federation.
The cow was born following the implementation of a ruminant feed ban in 1997; but the finding of additional cases is consistent with the known existence of a low level of BSE in North America, according to the organization.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has dispatched an animal health expert to Canada to participate in the epidemiologic investigation of the B.C. dairy cow.
“Information gathered through this investigation will help us to determine what, if any, impact this should have on our beef and cattle trade with Canada,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a statement. “Based on information currently available, I do not anticipate a change in the status of our trade.”
Following Canada’s initial case finding in 2003 the U.S. along with several other countries closed their borders to Canadian beef with temporary import bans. The U.S. border opened to Canadian beef in September 2003 and then to live cattle younger than 30 months of age last summer.
The border closure crippled the nation’s billion dollar cattle and beef export industry. In 2002, prior to the first BSE finding, total cattle and beef exports hit $3.9 billion, the equivalent of $11 million in sales each day. By 2004, the value of these exports had plunged to only $1.9 billion. With the border open to both cattle and beef, the value of daily exports has recently climbed to $8.4 million.
A national BSE surveillance program, which identified this animal, targets cattle most at risk of having BSE and has tested more than 100,000 animals since 2003. According to the CFIA, the detection of only five animals within this high-risk population over the past three years, supports the conclusion that the level of BSE in Canada is very low and declining.
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