Canadian cattle still on the way despite second case of Mad Cow

| 1/3/2005

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Monday, Jan. 3, that a second case of Mad Cow disease has been detected in Canada. However, the department will move ahead with plans to allow new imports of Canadian beef into the United States.

The U.S. and Canadian cases of Mad Cow have had a serious effect on some segments of the trucking industry.

In 2003, a cow in the province of Alberta that was slaughtered in January was diagnosed with the illness. It led the U.S. government to cut off beef shipments across the U.S.-Canadian border, severely impacting the beef industry – and the truckers who haul the beef.

The new case in Canada is raising concerns again, but officials are optimistic.

“The infected animal was born in 1996, prior to the implementation of Canada’s 1997 feed ban,” Ron DeHaven, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in a statement. “No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.”

The USDA announced new rules Dec. 29 under which beef from Canada could return.

At that time, U.S. officials expressed confidence in protective measures the Canadians had put into place.

“USDA is confident that the animal and public health measures that Canada has in place to prevent BSE, combined with existing U.S. domestic safeguards and additional safeguards provided in the final rule, provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers and livestock,” USDA officials said in a news release.

The U.S. government banned the imports after Canada’s first-ever case of Mad Cow – formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy – was discovered more than a year and a half ago.

Not long after that – on Dec. 23, 2003 – the United States announced its first case of the disease. In that case, the infected cow was imported from Canada.

DeHaven said that under the new regulations, Canada could detect as many as 11 cases of Mad Cow in its cattle population and still be considered a “minimal-risk country” – allowing it to continue sending cattle into the United States – as long as the nation’s preventative measures stayed in effect.

In an earlier statement, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, referring to the new rules, said. “Our approach is consistent with guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health and relies on appropriate, science-based risk-mitigation measures.

“After conducting an extensive review, we are confident that imports of certain commodities from regions of minimal risk can occur with virtually no risk to human or animal health.”

The first U.S. case was detected in Washington state later that year. In response to that announcement, eight nations in Asia banned American beef imports, and some – including Japan, the No. 1 importer of U.S. beef, South Korea, the No. 2 importer and No. 3 U.S. beef customer Mexico – recalled what was already on the shelves.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a chronic, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle, according to the USDA Web site. Worldwide, more than 180,000 cases have been reported since it was first diagnosed in 1986 in Great Britain. More than 95 percent of all mad cow cases have been in that country.

There is no treatment for Mad Cow disease, the USDA said, and all affected cattle die.

The human form of the disease is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. That illness is thought to be caused by people eating parts of an affected cow such as brain and spinal cord. More common in Europe, the illness has led to more than 100 deaths.