Canada confirms 14th case of mad cow disease

Fri Aug 15, 2008 5:33pm EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian officials on Friday confirmed the country's 14th case of mad cow disease in a six-year-old beef cow that was born years after Canada banned feed practices thought to cause the disease.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said no part of the animal's carcass entered the human-food or animal-feed systems.

The agency has identified its birth farm in the province of Alberta and is tracing its herdmates and looking for possible sources of the infection, concentrating on what the animal ate.

"It's still too early to say how the animal was infected," said Natalie Bragg, a veterinarian at the CFIA. "But one of the key elements will be to look at what feed was used on the farm ... as well as how it was produced, transported and stored."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is believed to be spread when cattle eat protein rendered from brains and spines of infected cattle or sheep. Canada banned that practice in 1997.

More than half of Canada's BSE cases were animals born after 2000, despite the 1997 feed ban that followed a European outbreak of the brain-wasting livestock disease.

The rendered protein was still allowed in pig and poultry feed until July 2007, when regulators, fearing cross-contamination, ordered that brains, spines and other high-risk material from old cattle be removed at slaughter and destroyed.

The CFIA has said the strict feed rules should help eliminate the disease nationally within a decade.

The human form of BSE, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is believed to be caused by eating meat from infected animals

Canada has been deemed a "controlled risk" country for mad cow disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) because of its surveillance and control measures.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway)