The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed another case of
bovine spongiform encephalopathy in that nation’s cowherd last Tuesday.
The latest cow was not a herd mate to a BSE-positive animal discovered
only nine days prior and was a purebred Charolais under seven years of
CFIA said that while testing the cow they kept control of the carcass,
and no part of the animal’s remains entered the human food or animal
feed production chains. The agency also said that because the animal is
purebred it will help facilitate traceback and discovery of any related
animals that may have been exposed to the disease.
Marc Richard, spokesman with CFIA, said the rancher noticed the cow was
lagging behind when he was bringing her in from pasture. A veterinarian
took a sample of the suspect cow at the ranch and sent the sample for
the preliminary rapid testing at the Alberta Provincial Lab on Jan. 7.
That lab is one of several facilities approved by Canada as part of a
network of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) laboratories.
When the rapid test revealed a positive result, the cow’s sample was
sent to the federal Winnipeg lab to undergo testing under the
international gold standard immunohistochemistry (IHC) test. The results
were confirmed on Jan. 11 and the BSE announcement was made.
The cow was born in March 1998, meaning Canada’s ruminant-to-ruminant
feed ban was in place prior to the animal being born. The U.S. and
Canada both established laws to prohibit the feeding of these products
believed to spread BSE by an animal ingesting meat or bone meal made
from the rendered parts of a contaminated animal. Canada implemented a
ban in August 1997.
Cindy McCreath, communications manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s
Association (CCA), said the most recent infection could be tracked back
to the animal eating feed that was grandfathered in by the feed ban.
“It’s important to note that while the feed ban began in August 1997,
there was no recall issued at that time on feed ingredients already in
the system.” She said it was likely the cow was exposed to feed that was
produced prior to the feed ban and was stored on a farm an extra long
time. She added that does not indicate a lack of feed ban compliance at
this stage of the investigation.
The other three BSE-positive cow’s originating from Canada were all born
prior to the feed ban and investigations into their infection indicated
that they had come in contact with BSE- contaminated feed.
McCreath said, “We have confidence in our regulators to ensure the
effectiveness of the ban. The low incidence of BSE in Canada, as shown
by the surveillance program, is evidence that the ban is working. The
CCA fully supports a review and validation of the implementation of
Canada’s feed ban.”
Jan Lyons, Kansas producer and president of the National Cattlemen’s
Beef Association, said, “America’s cattlemen insist that the feed ban be
strictly enforced, and we must be assured Canada is in full compliance.
We demand that USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
investigate Canada’s feed ban compliance. Based on this information,
USDA and FDA should determine how to proceed with regard to the
implementation of the Canadian rule.”
Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS), said, “Since this animal is born shortly
after the implementation of Canada’s feed ban and to determine is there
are any potential links among the positive animals, we will expedite
sending a technical team to Canada to evaluate the circumstances
surrounding these recent finds. We appreciate Canada’s willingness to
cooperate and assist us in these efforts. We will continue our ongoing
work with Canadian officials in their epidemiological investigations to
determine the facts of these cases.”
A team of investigators was sent to Canada last Wednesday to initiate
the investigation into Canada’s implementation of its feed ban and the
overall effectiveness of its rule. An FDA investigative team will be
sent into Canada to research the feed ban sometime before Jan. 21.
According to Richard, CFIA is looking to invite a separate international
review panel to evaluate the same issues as USDA and FDA.
On the other side of the issue, R-CALF USA does not believe the feed ban
is enough to prevent the spread of BSE. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard
criticized Canadian officials’ comments during a news conference about
the feed ban. Bullard quoted the officials as saying the feed ban was
enough of a safeguard to prevent the spread of BSE into the Canadian
cattle herd and into the human food supply.
“However,” Bullard said, “during Europe’s BSE crisis, Europe also
implemented a feed ban, yet, cases of BSE were discovered 12 years after
the feed ban was put into place.” He also emphasized that, given the new
finding, USDA should immediately withdraw its final rule allowing
Canadian cattle and beef from cattle over 30 months of age into the U.S.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) joined in the sentiment that USDA
should revoke the final cattle import rule.
Dave Frederickson, NFU president, said, “The National Farmers Union
reiterates its call for Congress to reject, or the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to immediately abandon, efforts to reopen the Canadian
border to live cattle. In addition, we urge USDA to rescind its rule
allowing Canadian boxed beef to enter the United States. It would be
negligent to jeopardize consumer confidence and our domestic cattle
market with these rules.
“Of the 23 countries with documented cases of BSE, 70 percent have
discovered subsequent cases in the months and years that follow. This
latest discovery is further evidence that the Canadian cattle herd is
infected with BSE, and the safeguards put into place in Canada to
prevent the disease are not properly working.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture,
Nutrition and Forestry Committee expressed disappointment in USDA’s
failure to reevaluate plans to reopen the Canadian border through last
week. However, the Senate Agriculture Committee did commit to holding a
Harkin said, “Critical questions exist about the efficacy of both the
Canadian anti-BSE effort and our own anti-BSE policies. Addressing these
concerns has to be a top priority of USDA before more broadly opening
the border to Canadian beef and cattle.”
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, sent a letter to outgoing Secretary of Agriculture
Ann Veneman, asking USDA to withdraw the Canadian final rule to allow
imports to resume.
“Today’s announcement reminds us that we do not know the prevalence of
BSE in Canada’s herd until they have completed their testing program,”
To date, CFIA says it has tested 24,000 head of cattle for BSE. This is
the third positive BSE test in Canada and the fourth case of BSE in an
animal of Canadian origin.
Enzi indicated that he supported reopening the border after export
markets were reestablished. That is a similar position to Rep. Earl
Pomeroy, D-ND, who introduced legislation earlier this month delaying
Canadian cattle imports until U.S. beef export markets were reopened to
“From the producer perspective, it is imperative that we reopen our
export markets before we allow our domestic market to be flooded with
Canadian cattle ... The border opening must be done in a way that
minimizes economic impact to domestic producers,” Enzi said.
On the other side of the issue, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and
NCBA wanted to ensure that consumer confidence here in the U.S. is not
damaged by the announcement of this latest case of BSE. AMI emphasized
that the meat never entered the food chain. However, they did say that
had the meat been sold for human consumption, it would have been safe
because the risk materials where the contaminating agent is found is
required to be removed. “Those are the only tissues where BSE has ever
been found,” said James Hodges, AMI president.
Lyons agreed, saying consumers should remember BSE is not found in beef
such as steaks, roasts and ground beef.
Hodges also said, “There are multiple firewalls in place to detect BSE
if it exists in North America and prevent the contamination of the food
supply. This animal was identified because it had been detected under
the Canadian surveillance system.”
On a final note, Hodges said it is important that the U.S. tries to
fully understand the significance and the demand that public officials
make policy decisions based on sound science. AMI encouraged USDA to
move forward with the decision to open the border on March 7.
CFIA said the results of a full internal audit of the Canadian feed
rule, as well as the traceback and traceout of this animal to find any
subsequent contaminated animals should be completed before March 7.