BSE detected in Alberta

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an approximately six-year-old cross-bred cow born and raised in Alberta. No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.

This finding is not unexpected and was identified through Canada’s national surveillance program, which targets cattle at highest risk of being infected with BSE. The program has tested more than 87,000 animals since Canada’s first BSE case in 2003.

The geographic location and age of this animal are consistent with the three domestic cases previously detected through the national BSE surveillance program and the current understanding of BSE in Canada. The clustering of these cases is examined in the epidemiological report, Canada’s Assessment of the North American BSE Cases Diagnosed from 2003 to 2005 (Part II), which is available on the CFIA’s Website.

Food safety remains protected through the removal of specified risk material (SRM) from all cattle slaughtered for human food in Canada. SRM are tissues that, in infected cattle, contain the BSE agent. This measure is internationally recognized as the most effective means to protect public health from BSE.

The CFIA, working collaboratively with the producer and the Province of Alberta, has launched a comprehensive investigation into the feeding regime and storage practices employed on the farm, as well as the production and source of feeds delivered to the farm. Consistent with international standards, the CFIA will identify cattle born on the farm within 12 months before and after the affected animal, as well as offspring of the affected animal born during the last two years. Any live animals found from these groups will be segregated and tested.

Definitive conclusions regarding the source of infectivity cannot be made until the investigation is complete; however, it is probable that the source is contaminated feed. This scenario is consistent with Canada’s previous experience and that of the international community. Although the first evidence of BSE in the Canadian herd was in May 2003 and this recent animal would have become infected with the disease prior to that time, this case does support the need for Canada to continue to move towards enhancing the current feed ban. In December 2004, there was a formal call for comments on the draft regulations through Canada Gazette, which have been the subject of extensive consultations with the provinces and industry. The CFIA has completed its analysis and is prepared to provide advice to the government on next steps.

Canada has a suite of safeguards that work together to systematically limit the risks to animal and public health associated with BSE. These measures include import controls, surveillance of the national cattle herd and the removal of potentially harmful tissues from all animals slaughtered for human consumption. Of principal importance from an animal health perspective is Canada’s feed ban, which is designed to limit BSE spread and eradicate the disease over time. Analysis of previous Canadian investigations and surveillance results to date continue to indicate that Canada’s feed ban is working as intended to effectively reduce BSE risks to animal health through a robust compliance and enforcement strategy. Our experiences related to the feed ban and finding cases born after the feed ban are in keeping with other countries.

This detection is consistent with a low level of disease and does not indicate an increased risk of BSE in Canada. Based on the guidelines and certification recommendations of the World Organization for Animal Health, this finding should not affect Canada’s ability to export live animals, beef and beef products. Canada has notified its key trading partners, including the United States. Since May 2003, Canada has clearly stated the possibility of finding a small number of additional BSE cases. This international dialogue will continue as Canadian officials work closely with their international counterparts to ensure the facts and supporting science of this case are shared in an open and timely manner.

As the investigation progresses, the CFIA will provide Canadians with regular updates. Information will be posted to the CFIA’s Website as it becomes available.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency


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