Editor’s note: There is an updated story on this news here. In it, John Masswohl of the CCA remarks on whether or not this finding will significantly impact trade. As of late Friday, February 13, the age of the cow was not released publicly, but the location was — northern Alberta. As of Sunday, February 15th, the CFIA says South Korea has suspended imports of Canadian beef, pending further information on the new BSE find.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed Canada’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) since 2011 in a beef cow from Alberta.
In a statement emailed to RealAgriculture.com late Thursday, the CFIA said the case was detected through the national BSE surveillance program. An investigation has been launched seeking to confirm the age of the animal, its history and how it became infected. The agency is also looking for information on the feed the animal consumed during the first year of its life. No part of the animal’s carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems.
From a trade standpoint, Canada remains a “controlled risk” country, as recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health, so the agency says it should not affect current exports of cattle or beef. The discovery could delay Canada’s move from “controlled” to “negligible” risk, depending on the age of the animal.
The CFIA says it will conduct a “trace out” to find animals of equivalent risk. These animals will be ordered destroyed and tested for BSE.
There is currently no way to accurately test for the fatal neurological disease in live animals, so testing is done on the brains of deceased animals. The national BSE surveillance program has a mandated testing target of 30 thousand head annually.
The Canadian cattle sector was devastated following the discovery of the first domestic case of BSE in Alberta in 2003, as export markets closed their borders to Canadian beef and cattle. Canada’s most recent case of BSE was in 2011 in a dairy cow in Alberta.
A tweet from John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association:
Feeling calm this morning. Good opportunity to show how strong our system is.
— John Masswohl (@JohnMasswohl) February 13, 2015