To: NMA Members
Fr: Rosemary Mucklow, Executive Director
Re: BSE-Positive Cow Detected in Canada
May 20, 2003
Canada obtained confirmation this morning from the world's most experienced pathological laboratory at Purbright, U.K. that an 8-year old beef cow on a ranch in Northern Alberta, Canada has been diagnosed as having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly referred to as “Mad Cow Disease.” There was a delay between the cow’s slaughter on January 31 and testing because sample tissue from livestock that are condemned and do not enter the food supply are the lowest priority for laboratory testing. The cow, which showed no signs of BSE infection, reportedly had pneumonia and was lighter in weight than normal, and consequently was condemned by the Canadian Food inspector as unfit to enter the food chain. The BSE-positive cow never entered the food supply, and none of its tissue was used in food product or ruminant feeds.
The Canadian Minister, Canadian officials, and Alberta provincial officials hosted a teleconference this morning to answer questions. They repeatedly stated that the identification of this cow demonstrates that the system works, as the cow did not enter the food system. The Canadian leadership also discussed the finding with Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman this morning. USDA has temporarily suspended livestock and meat trade from Canada until further information is known. The U.S. will not accept any Canadian ruminants or ruminant products until further notice. USDA is also dispatching a technical team to Canada to assist in the investigation. “I [spoke] with Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lyle Vanclief a short time ago about Canada’s investigation and feel that all appropriate measures are being taken in what appears to be an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalophathy,” Secretary Veneman said in a statement.
In a statement the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said “Information suggests that the risk to human health and the possibility of transmission to other Canadian cattle from this case are low.” In accordance with BSE precautionary measures, the condemned cow was held for testing and sent to rendering after slaughter. The assembled herd from which the infected cow came has been quarantined and will be depopulated, as will any other at-risk herds. Canada will use its “trace out” system to provide both forward and backward tracing information for the infected animal. Reportedly, no other cows from the herd the BSE-infected cow came from have been sent to slaughter.
There is a lot of unknown information. It was reaffirmed many times during the course of the teleconference that there is no known transmission between cows. It was also noted that the incubation period for BSE is anywhere between 2 and 8 years. The most common method of transmission known is an animal consuming BSE-infected mammalian materials in feed (Canada bans mammalian materials in ruminant feed).
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued guidance to District offices, to be disseminated through field offices, stipulating that all carcasses of known Canadian origin be retained, and slaughter of Canadian cattle cease until further notice. This afternoon NMA has asked that FSIS provide this guidance in writing, and NMA will share the guidance as soon as it is available. FSIS officials have also said that they are working cooperatively with sister-agency Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS Administrator Bobby Acord will be hosting a teleconference on Wednesday, May 21 at 12:15 p.m. ET on this matter. Dial 1-888-989-9786 and enter pass code 31991 to participate.
This event obviously impacts trade between Canada and the U.S. As more information is forthcoming, we will keep members informed. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] with any questions or concerns.