Meat system safe despite mad cow case: Ritz
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, February 13, 2015 12:56PM EST
Canada’s agriculture minister issued an emphatic “no” when asked if Canadians should be worried about this country’s latest confirmed case of mad cow disease.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Friday that a beef cow from Alberta has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). No meat from the animal entered Canada’s food or animal feed systems, the agency said.
With an investigation into how the animal contracted the disease underway, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said there is no danger to Canada’s beef industry.
“No, not at all, not at all,” Ritz said when asked by reporters Friday whether the case posed a risk to meat that Canadians consume.
Canada’s testing and reporting system follow strict international protocols, Ritz said, and conducting such frequent testing means that “you’re going to find things.”
Canada’s cattle industry is at controlled risk status, Ritz explained, which means this country can have up to 12 BSE outbreaks in a calendar year.
“We’ve stayed well below that,” Ritz said, adding that this is Canada’s first case since 2011.
The animal now under investigation was still at an Alberta farm when provincial testing detected BSE, Ritz said, and the CFIA was immediately notified.
Andrew Potter, director and CEO of Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), said the investigation into what led to the case of BSE will include the animal’s history and the type of feed it was given.
While a feed ban has been in place for 18 years and was strengthened in the wake of the mad cow scare of 2003, Potter said, it could be that an old bag of feed was “kicking around somewhere” that might have been used.
“It would not be all that unusual to see a spontaneous case of BSE every now and then. Certainly it’s within the realm of scientific possibility,” Potter told CTV News Channel from Saskatchewan.
“And I think one of the reasons we pick these things up is because the screening system we have in Canada right now is so good.”
It is “highly unlikely” that the cow spread the disease throughout a herd, he said, adding that “the odd case of BSE is probably happening in most countries that have intensive cattle-rearing operations around the world. The question is do they pick it up?”
During the 2003 mad cow outbreak in Alberta, dozens of international markets closed their doors to Canadian beef.
Although there will be some countries that will “look for any excuse to put non-tariff trade barriers” on Canadian beef, Potter said, “I don’t think a single case (of BSE) is going to impact us in any way.”
Ritz concurred, telling reporters that he’s not worried about Canada’s beef exports. Markets such as Japan and South Korea look for strict testing and reporting protocols, and Canada’s traceability program “is what gets us into those markets.”
“We don’t see this interfering with our trade corridors at this time,” he said.