Mad cow disease confirmed in Alberta cow: CFIA
Published Friday, February 13, 2015 7:15AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 13, 2015 3:22PM EST
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it has confirmed mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in a beef cow from Alberta.
The agency says no part of the animal's meat entered the human food system or animal feed systems.
The CFIA has now launched an investigation into how the cow might have become infected. That investigation will focus on the cow's history as well as the feed supplied to the animal during its first year of its life. Other cows that may have been exposed to similar risks as the infected cow will need to be destroyed, the agency said.
Canada's last confirmed case of BSE was reported in February, 2011.
The country's first known case was discovered in 1993 in a cow from a farm near Red Deer, Alta. that had been imported from Britain.
The first case of BSE in a Canadian-born beef cow was in May 2003. It's suspected that animal became infected through contaminated animal feed that contained a protein supplement made with ground meat and bone meal.
BSE is a fatal and untreatable brain and nervous-system wasting-disease caused by rogue proteins called prions. The disease is related to chronic wasting disease in elk and deer in North America and scrapie in sheep.
Humans who eat BSE-infected beef can develop a fatal disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Fewer than 250 human cases have been reported worldwide, with the majority in the United Kingdom and France.
When the first home-grown case of BSE was discovered in Canada in 2003, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association says the impact to the Canadian beef industry was "enormous." About 40 markets immediately closed their borders to Canadian cattle and beef, many of which have since reopened.
In May 2007, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) categorized Canada as a "controlled risk" status country for BSE, due to Canada’s effective surveillance and mitigation measures. After the mad cow crisis, testing in the country was strengthened and risk materials, such as brains and spinal columns, were banned from being used in feed and other products.
"Accordingly, this case should not affect current exports of Canadian cattle or beef," the CFIA said in its statement Friday. It added that Canada will maintain its controlled-risk status by the World Organization for Animal Health.
The agency says this latest case will be reported to the OIE, in line with Canada's international obligations.
The President of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, Doug Gillespie, said that the discovery of a new case of mad cow disease in Canada isn't surprising.
"They expect to find one of these from time to time … It really shows our system is working, that beef is safe. It really never reached the food chain or anything." he told The Canadian Press from his farm near Swift Current, Sask.
"Of course there's always concern, but we'll see where it goes from here," he added.
John Masswohl of The Canadian Cattlemen's Association doesn’t foresee the discovery of this new BSE case as having a substantial effect on the beef industry.
"Very minimal, if any. We don't expect much impact from this on the international side," Masswohl told The Canadian Press from Ottawa. "The CFIA have already been busy talking to other countries, explaining what is going on."
Last year, Canada exported 317,000 tonnes of beef products worth $1.9 billion, according to Agriculture Canada.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he is not worried about the discovery of the BSE-positive cow. He says there is a strong safety system in place now that ensures Canadian cattle have high traceability through tagging and registration.
"We're working under international protocols that are well known and well established," he told reporters in Calgary.
"We have 'controlled risk' status which means we can have up to 12 outbreaks in any calendar year. We've stayed well below that."
With Files from The Canadian Press