R-CALF Calls for Stronger BSE Rules with Canada

Much tougher testing standards needed.

Published on: Apr 19, 2006

trade activist R-CALF says since the latest BSE-positive cow confirmed in Canada, as well as the case found there in January, were both born three years after that nation implemented a feed ban, it suggests BSE has been circulating within the Canadian feed system for years. The BSE-positive cow Canada confirmed on Jan. 11, 2005, was born seven months after Canada implemented its feed ban.

R-CALF President Chuck Kiker says the case confirmed over the weekend is Canada's sixth in native-born cattle, not its fifth, as reported by USDA, which it says continues to overlook the December 2003 case found in Washington state in a cow imported from Alberta. (Canada also detected BSE in a cow imported from Great Britain in 1993.) Kiker says despite this being the fourth detected case in Canadian cattle in little more than a year, Canada continues to test significantly less livestock compared to other BSE-affected countries.

"This means half of all Canadian BSE cases confirmed so far were in animals born after Canada implemented its 1997 feed ban, a precaution USDA incorrectly assumed would halt the spread of the disease within Canada's feed system and its cattle herd," says Kiker.

USDA says it anticipated there might be a few more cattle exposed to BSE-contaminated feed before Canada initiated its feed ban. However, in its risk analysis supporting the Final Rule permitting Canadian cattle back into the United States, the agency warned that, "Another indication of an effective feed ban can be derived from epidemiologic investigations of diagnosed cases. Cases of BSE found in animals born after the feed ban was implemented would suggest either that the feed ban was ineffective or that there were noncompliance issues."

"That's precisely the situation now," Kiker says. 

USDA officials have also says, "because the two BSE-infected animals (at the time) were born before the feed ban, there is no evidence to suggest that the feed ban is ineffective. We now have the smoking gun: three confirmed BSE cases that show Canada's feed ban has not prevented the spread of BSE. USDA's previous optimistic assumptions are no longer valid.

"By USDA's own account, Canada is now detecting the third generation of BSE infectivity within its cattle herd - an increasingly obvious risk to the U.S. cattle herd," says Kiker. "If USDA does not take more decisive action, there is a possible irreversible risk of introducing a spreading pattern of BSE in our own country because the U.S. has not yet implemented the U.S. feed ban improvements recommended back in 2004 by the Food and Drug Administration to address the increased risk of BSE exposure from foreign sources."

U.S. farm organizations say that because the latest case was discovered in British Columbia and not a state where other cases have already been found, either BSE was already more widespread than previously thought, or Canada's testing program isn't sufficient.

R-CALF calls on USDA to place a moratorium on the importation of Canadian cattle and beef at least until Canada adopts the minimal risk mitigation measures practiced in other BSE-affected countries that have identified BSE cases in cattle born after the implementation of a feed ban. The measures include:

  1. Significantly increase testing of Canadian cattle to mirror the testing programs of other similarly affected countries.
  2. Close the loopholes in Canada's feed ban, acknowledged by the Canadian government since 2003.
  3. Remove all specified risk materials from all Canadian cattle over 12 months of age.