Preliminary BSE testing results completed late on Dec. 29, 2004, identified a suspect 10-year-old dairy cow. Although the finding is not definitive, multiple screening tests have yielded positive results.
No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems. Samples are currently being analyzed at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg. Confirmatory results are expected in three to five days.
The Government of Canada’s normal policy is to report only confirmed results. However, given the unique situation created by the United States’ border announcement on Dec. 29 it was decided that the most prudent action would be to publicly announce the available information and provide stakeholders with a full understanding of the current situation.
Since confirming BSE in Canada in 2003, CFIA officials have stated that finding more cases in North America was possible. Canada’s public health measures have been built on this assumption. As a result, the confirmation of a new case of BSE would not indicate increased risk to food safety as 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 of protecting public health from BSE.
The suspect animal was detected through the national surveillance program, implemented in co-operation with the provinces and the animal health community. Testing was conducted after the animal was identified as a downer, one of the high-risk categories targeted by the surveillance program. To date, more than 21,000 animals have been tested this year.
Similar to the two North American BSE-infected animals detected in 2003, this animal was born before the Canadian and American feed bans were introduced in 1997. If BSE is confirmed in this case, consumption of contaminated feed before 1997 remains the most likely route of transmission. Evidence collected through investigations and risk analyses continues to indicate that the feed ban has successfully limited BSE spread since being implemented.
U.S. officials have been informed of the suspect case of BSE. This finding should not have a significant or lasting impact on efforts to normalize trade. In negotiations with trading partners, including the U.S., Canada has been very open about the prospect of finding more BSE.