BSE-infected Canadian Cattle Still a Risk

R-CALF says USDA may reconsider its open gate import policy.

Published on: Jun 16, 2009
Canada is still finding cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Its mid-May announcement is the 10th case of BSE or mad cow disease since the U.S. ban on Canadian cattle was lifted.

The finding reinforces the strong objection of Ranchers, Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America. Last week, R-CALF USA once again appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reconsider import restrictions on Canadian cattle.

R-CALF USA contends that USDA's key assumptions about allowing the importation of cattle over 30 months of age were wrong, and that USDA grossly underestimated the prevalence of BSE in Canada. Here are some of the key points filed with USDA:

  • 10 cases of BSE have been detected in cattle born after March 1, 1999, contradicting the assumption that cattle born after that date would have an "extremely low likelihood" of being exposed to BSE.
  • 11 of Canada's 17 BSE cases were born after Canada's 1997 feed ban, disproving the assumption that Canada's feed ban was effectively preventing BSE's spread.
  • More than twice the number of older cattle have been imported than USDA assumed, raising the risk that some BSE-infected cattle may have been imported.
  • Hundreds of herdmates of BSE-infected cattle were slaughtered with the resulting beef being eligible for import into the United States.

R-CALF USA officials say USDA is now reconsidering its rule.