Canada mad cow case delays OIE status change

Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:26pm EST
 
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada has confirmed its 17th case of mad cow disease, a finding that will delay any upgrade to its international risk status by one year, a top industry official said on Wednesday.

The animal was born in February 2004, making it Canada's latest-born case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The new case pushes back the earliest date for an upgrade to Canada's controlled risk status from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to 2016, said Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation.

A country cannot apply to upgrade to negligible status sooner than 11 years after the latest-born case of BSE. The process then takes about one year.

Canada, along with many other countries with controlled risk status from the OIE, can ship beef as long as it meets conditions such as disease surveillance.

The infected animal, which has been slaughtered, has not affected trade, Haney said.

The 2003 discovery of the first case of mad cow disease on a Canadian farm caused many countries to halt imports of Canadian beef. Most markets have since reopened, but the cattle industry remains in a slump due to other factors such as a strong Canadian dollar.

Mad cow disease is believed to be spread when cattle eat protein rendered from the brains and spines of infected cattle or sheep. Canada banned that practice in 1997.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency tightened feed rules further in 2007 and said the moves should help eliminate the disease nationally within a decade, although the agency cautioned it still expected to discover the occasional new case.

CFIA spokeswoman Julie LePage confirmed the 17th case but could not provide details of the new case.

The CFIA notified cattle industry officials of the new case late last month, but did not issue a news release, Haney said.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel, editing by Julie Ingwersen)