Canada announced today (Tuesday) that a six year, nine month old beef cow from Alberta has tested positive for BSE. The infected animal was born in March 1998, after Canada implemented its feed ban in August of 1997.
A statement from APHIS Administrator Dr. Ron DeHaven says the agency believes the safeguards in place protect human health. "However, Since this animal was born shortly after the implementation of Canadaâ€™s feed ban and to determine if there are any potential links among the positive animals, we will expedite sending a technical team to Canada to evaluate the circumstances surrounding these recent finds," he says.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is demanding that the USDA and FDA investigate Canada's feed ban compliance to assure producers Canada is implementing the same safeguards as the U.S.
The farm of origin has been confirmed. Based on preliminary information, feed produced prior to the introduction of the 1997 feed ban in Canada remains the most likely source of infection in this animal.
According to Reuters, another agriculture source in Ottawa says the USDA was said to be considering withdrawing its rule as Canadian officials prepared to announce the latest BSE finding. The wire service also reports an agriculture industry source saying, "Career folks at APHIS are saying they are going to kill the rule."
DeHaven's statement says the agency will use the findings of the technical team investigation and analysis to evaluate appropriate next steps in regard to the minimal risk rule published last week.
NCBA says its position is based on science. "Science shows the feed ban breaks the cycle of this disease, and U.S. cattlemen must be confident of Canadaâ€™s full compliance with its feed ban," says President Jan Lyons. "Once the questions concerning Canadaâ€™s compliance with its BSE firewalls have been adequately answered, NCBA members will consider their position on the Canadian rule and efforts to reopen the border."
The National Farmers Union is calling for Congress to reject, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately abandon, efforts to reopen the Canadian border to live cattle. In addition, NFU is urging USDA to rescind its rule allowing Canadian boxed beef to enter the United States.
The infected animal was detected through the recently enhanced national surveillance program. This current investigation is independent of the BSE investigation on the case which was confirmed on January 2, 2005.
The Government of Canada continues to believe that the ruminant to ruminant feed ban introduced in 1997 has limited the spread of BSE and remains effective.
Initial testing on the animal was conducted by Alberta authorities. Results were inconclusive and samples were then sent to the Canadian Science Center for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg. The definitive diagnosis was made today using the internationally recognized "gold standard" test for BSE.