Canada’s latest case of BSE was discovered in an Alberta cow born March 2009, two years after a stronger feed ban to reduce disease risk became law.
The cow died on a farm near Spruce Grove, north of Edmonton, Alta. and the birth farm was located Feb. 17.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently investigating both farms and the feed mills that may have supplied the herd of origin with feed or supplements.
“We are not yet at a point where we can determine all of the steps and stages the animal may have gone through from birth to its ultimate death at the index farm,” said Paul Mayers, vice president, policy and program for the CFIA.
The farms will stay under quarantine under the investigation is complete, CFIA officials told reporters Feb. 18.
The cow was traced to the birth farm from producer records and an ear tattoo, said Mayers.
The cow was not wearing a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency eartag and was apparently not age verified, he said.
The investigation of the farm of origin will identify animals that may have received the same feed during the first year of their lives. Those animals will be traced, destroyed and tested, said Mayers.
Investigators will also check feed mills that may have supplied the birth farm to verify their compliance with the enhanced feed ban implemented in 2007. At that time all body parts like brains, glands, intestines and nerve tissue from animals older than 30 months were banned from the human food chain, feed supply, pet food and fertilizer. It is believed the rogue proteins responsible for the brain wasting disease are harboured in these tissues called specified risk materials.
The case has been reported to the world organization for animal health (OIE) in line with Canada’s international obligations. Under the OIE rules Canada has controlled risk status but hoped to change to negligible status later this year.
This application is postponed until 2020, said Dr. Martine Dubuc, vice president, science, CFIA and delegate at the World Organization for Animal Health.
Canada is still allowed to trade although individual nations make their own business decisions, said Mayers.
“The OIE has stated this one case won’t change status. Therefore we expect our trading partners on the basis of this status to not make any changes to market access for Canadians in beef,” he said.
South Korea halted imports of Canadian beef on Feb. 14. Canada has a bilateral agreement with Korea giving them the right to halt imports in the event of another case of BSE. They must be given additional information on steps Canada has taken to ensure the beef is safe.
On Feb. 18 Indonesia announced it has suspended imports of bone meal.
The CFIA said this case was not unexpected and a few cases were expected after the enhanced feed ban became law. Other countries have had similar experiences.
“We are not going to suggest there is a zero risk achieved on Day One of 2007,” Mayers said.
“This situation is not unique to Canada, indeed in many of the countries who have implemented feed restrictions in their management of BSE they have experienced a small number of cases of animals born after that ban,” he said.
However increasing animal surveillance and developing a strict feed ban has reduced risk and kept contaminated material from going back into the feed system.