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Mad Cow Disease Has Resurfaced in Canada. Should We Be Worried?

Canada has confirmed its first case of mad cow disease since 2011. The report surfaced on Friday, February 13 but the country expressed confidence that ...

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|Feb 16|magazine5 min read

Canada has confirmed its first case of mad cow disease since 2011. The report surfaced on Friday, February 13 but the country expressed confidence that the discovery would not hit a beef export sector worth C$2bn ($1.6bn) a year.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said no part of the animal, a beef cow fro Alberta, had reached the human food or animal feed systems.

Mad cow is formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a progressive, fatal neurological disease.

“The CFIA is seeking to confirm the age of the animal, its history and how it became infected. The investigation will focus in on the feed supplied to this animal during the first year of its life,” the agency said.

Canadian exports were badly hit in 2003 after the first case of BSE was detected. Canada subsequently tightened its controls and many nations have since resumed the beef trade with Canada, despite the discovery of more cases since then.

Asked whether he was concerned about exports being harmed, the agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, told reporters in Calgary: “Not at this time, no.”

He added though that markets in South Korea and Japan were generally very concerned about the potential risk from BSE.

Ritz said Canada’s current OIE risk status meant it could report up to 12 outbreaks in a calendar year.

Dave Solverson, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said in previous outbreaks there had rarely been more than one infected animal on an individual farm.

“It’s very unlikely there will be more cases found,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

BSE is believed to spread when cattle eat protein rendered from the brains and spines of infected cattle or sheep. Canada banned that practice in 1997.

The CFIA tightened feed rules in 2007 and said this should help eliminate the disease nationally within a decade, although the agency said it still expected to discover the occasional new case.

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