Canada´s tally: 15 cases of BSE, nine born after feed ban

Nov 11, 2008
Canada´s tally: 15 cases of BSE, nine born after feed ban

BSE (from page 1) “Because of the strong measures put in place by America’s beef producers, government and top scien tists, BSE is extremely rare in the United States. Our number one priority has always been providing the safest beef in the world,” said a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spokesper son. “Our livelihood depends on it, and that’s why we have worked with industry part ners for more than two de cades to build, maintain and expand the BSE safeguards that protect our cattle as well as your family and our own families.”

R-CALF USA, which has fought the opening of the U.S. border to Canadian feeder cattle imports tooth and nail, sees the issue dif ferently and vehemently defends their position on the matter.

Speaking about the most recent case, R-CALF Presi dent Max Thornsberry said it proves his group’s asser tion that Canada’s feed ban has been ineffective due to the birth dates of the most recent cases.

“It’s also the ninth case in an animal born after Cana da’s 1997 feed ban and the eighth case born after March 1, 1999, a date USDA uses to try to convince us that any Canadian cattle born after that date are safe to import into the United States,” he said. “This particular animal would have been eligible for

export to the U.S., and that should concern everyone,” he continued. “For quite some time now, Canada has not been testing herd mates of infected cattle to see if there might be other cases of BSE in a particular herd and the U.S. is missing a huge opportunity to get a more accurate assessment of just how bad Canada’s BSE problems really are. USDA should require Can ada to test herd mates for the disease if they want to continue exporting cattle and beef to the United States.”

Canada’s national BSE surveillance program, which is responsible for identifying all of Canada’s BSE cases, provides peace of mind to Canadian producers, but not to Thornsberry, who be lieves the surveillance pro vides inadequate protection for U.S. producers.

“CFIA’s mantra that ev ery new BSE case in Canada was identified by ‘the na tional BSE surveillance pro gram, which has been high ly successful in demonstrat ing the low level of BSE in

Canada’ is simply absurd, in the extreme,” Thornsberry pointed out. “Of course, it’s true that all the BSE cases detected in Canada have been through CFIA’s sur veillance—CFIA doesn’t al low anyone else to test for BSE—but that hardly means that CFIA’s testing program has been ‘highly successful in demonstrating the low level of BSE in Can ada.’ The program, instead, has definitively shown that Canada and the U.S. have inaccurately predicted— numerous times over the past five years—that BSE has virtually been elimi nated there.”

To back up his claims, Thornsberry points to a risk assessment model used by USDA to predict that the U.S. would import 19 BSE infected cattle from Canada over the next 20 years, rea soning which he says is flawed. Instead, R-CALF claims the study was based on an “erroneous assump tion” that Canada had only four BSE-infected cattle re maining in its entire cattle herd after August 2006. Fur-

thermore, he noted that Canada has detected one and one-half times more BSE-infected cattle than what was included in the risk assessment.

“This fact demonstrates conclusively that the risk of importing BSE cattle into the United States from Can ada is substantially greater than what USDA has told the public,” said Thorns berry.

R-CALF USA stands firm in its belief that Canadian cattle, particularly the high risk cattle over 30 months of age, should not be imported into the U.S.. “It is downright irrespon sible for USDA to continue to allow these older cattle that were born when BSE was still circulating in the Canadian feed system into the United States,” Thorns berry asserted.

Thornsberry also attacked the scope of Canada’s testing program, which he says has backpedaled and now no longer includes herd mates of cattle which are found to be BSE-positive.

“Canada has reduced its BSE testing of older animals and has ceased testing high risk herd mates, and reports indicate it is planning to reduce its incentive program to test for BSE,” he added.

“The only plausible reason USDA is accepting this di minished testing at a time when new BSE cases in Canada have shown no sign of decreasing is that USDA would rather not know about additional cases of BSE in Canadian cattle now

that USDA has declared Canadian cattle safe and allowed them to be imported by the hundreds of thou sands a year.” Rob McNabb of the Cana dian Cattlemen’s Associa tion said that producers in his country aren’t panicked over the latest discovery and insists that more cases are likely to be found as CFIA seeks to eliminate the dis ease. “We’re not concerned. We truly believe in the value of the surveillance system and the other BSE mitigation measures we have in place to protect the consuming public,” he said. “The OIE has clearly positioned itself as saying our risk is indeed controlled and that until Canada is at a point where we can be sure that we’ve gotten rid of BSE concerns, then it’s not time to claim that we have eradicated it.” McNabb agrees with CFIA’s assertion that the surveillance program is ef fective and credits it with finding the animals long before they can enter the food supply.

“The value of finding the animals using the nation wide surveillance system is that it offers consumers an assurance that everything in CFIA’s power is being done,” he said. “Yeah, it´s not the most comfortable thing to have to deal with when you find another BSE case, but as it’s been stated before, once we have found BSE, it’s likely that more cases will continue to turn up.” Prions caught somewhere in cattle feed storage bins or moving equipment are like ly to blame, explained Mc- Nabb, who thinks it will take some time before all infectious agents have been flushed out of the country’s feed system.

“There’s definitely a clus ter of cases going on in Al berta and it’s probably re lated to feed contamination,” he said. “Some contaminat ed feed going back to the last decade is present in minute amounts and it’s having a residual effect on our BSE findings.” — Tait Berlier, WLJ Editor

“Canada has reduced its BSE testing of older animals and has ceased testing high-risk herd mates, and reports indicate it is planning to reduce its incentive program to test for BSE.”