The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today confirmed that an older dairy cow from Alberta has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The infected animal was born in 1996, prior to the introduction of the 1997 feed ban. It is suspected that the animal became infected by contaminated feed before the feed ban.
No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems. This finding does not indicate an increased risk to food safety.Canada's public health safeguards have been developed on the assumption that a low, declining level of BSE remains in North America. Canada requires the removal of specified risk material (SRM) from all animals entering the human food supply. 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.
Confirming BSE in this animal is not unexpected. Canada has in place a suite of risk mitigation measures to protect public and animal health, including the removal of SRM from the human food chain, the ruminant to ruminant feed ban, the national surveillance program and import restrictions. As a result, the United States continues to consider Canada as a minimal risk region. As stated in the United States Department of Agriculture press release of December 30th, 2004, the United States would not alter the implementation of its rule to resume trade with Canada.
The infected animal was detected through the recently enhanced national surveillance program. Additional cases may be found as testing of high-risk cattle continues. In 2004, the Government of Canada tested over 22,000 animals.
The CFIA is continuing its investigation and has determined the infected animal's farm of origin. Efforts are now underway to identify any other animals of similar risk. Specifically, the Agency is focusing on two categories of animals: recently born offspring of the infected animal and cattle born on the same farm within a year of the infected animal. This work is proceeding as quickly as possible.
The Agency has also launched a feed investigation to examine what the infected animal was fed early in its life, when infection was most likely to have occurred prior to the 1997 feed ban. Given the age of the animal, it may not be possible to definitively identify a particular feed source as the origin of infection. However, information gathered through investigations and analyses continues to suggest that the feed ban has limited the spread of BSE since its implementation.
In 1989, Canada banned further importation of cattle from the United Kingdom and traced all imported cattle to their Canadian farms of origin, where they were monitored and eventually destroyed. Before this time, when BSE had not emerged as a significant animal health threat, it is likely that some imported animals entered the North American feed system.
The CFIA will hold a technical briefing on Jan. 3, 2005 at 11:00 EST. A media advisory will be issued with additional information.