BSE Diagnosed in Alberta

Canada has found a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Published on: Dec 19, 2007

A 13-year-old beef cow in Alberta has been confirmed to have BSE. According to Dr. George Luterbach, a senior veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Service, it came to light as a result of the ongoing National BSE Surveillance that Canada has in place.

"The system is targeted toward animals most likely to have BSE," Luterbach says. "In this case the cow in question was originally thought to have an abdominal tumor, but she fit the profile to be checked and it was confirmed she had BSE."

An investigation has been started to determine the birth farm, and trace any animals born within a year of this cow on that farm, and remove them from the population. It has already been established that the cow was born on the farm where she was found in March of 1994.

Luterbach says the finding of this cow will not have a national impact on Canada's Controlled Risk for BSE status that was issued by the World Health Organization earlier this year.

"We know there will be a small number of cases found over the next few years," Lutenbach says. "Everyone is taking this seriously, but producers are active in the surveillance program and it shows that BSE is very rare and allows us to take future action to eliminate it from our herd."

In spite of CFIA assertions that they have a robust set of BSE controls, R-Calf USA contends that this case adds weight to their pending lawsuit that argues the over-30-month rule of USDA, which allows older cattle into the U.S., violates USDA's regulations.

"Had this 13-year-old cow not been detected under Canada's limited, voluntary testing program, the meat from that cow would have been eligible for export to the United States," says R-Calf USA President Max Thornsberry. "OTM cattle in a BSE-affected country bear an inherently higher risk for the disease, and USDA is acting irresponsibly by allowing both higher-risk beef and higher-risk cattle into the U.S. food supply."

R-Calf USA CEO Bill Bullard says the 190,000 cattle that Canada has tested since 2003 is inadequate. With the number of cases of BSE Canada has had, he contends that a mandatory testing program like those in Europe and Japan should be instituted for cattle over the age of 30 months.