OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada confirmed a new case of mad cow disease on Tuesday, the 12th since 2003, and said the animal in question was a six-year-old dairy cow from Alberta that had most probably eaten infected feed.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which vows to eradicate bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) within a decade, has consistently said it expects to find a few cases of the disease.
The CFIA said no part of the animal had entered the human or animal food supply.
The cow was born after Canada and the United States introduced a ban in 1997 on cattle feed that contained ingredients made from rendered cattle and other ruminants. At least four other cases have involved animals born after 1997.
“(This) probably reflects some residual contamination within the feed system,” CFIA senior veterinarian George Luterbach told Reuters.
“These events are certainly not necessarily welcome but they’re certainly not a surprise.”
Many trading partners shut their borders to Canadian cattle and beef products after the first home-grown case in 2003, dealing a massive blow to the industry, and Ottawa has fought hard to restore market confidence.
“In recent years we’ve really ramped up our targeted surveillance, tested over 200,000 animals ... and it remains confirmed that BSE is a very rare event and not an increasing event in Canada,” Luterbach said.
Last May the World Organization for Animal Health relaxed its security rating on both the United States and Canada, classifying both nations as controlled risk in a sign it was happy with their efforts to combat BSE.
“This case will not affect Canada’s controlled risk country status,” the CFIA said in a statement.
“Based on science, it is not expected that this case should impact access to any of Canada’s current international markets for cattle and beef.”
Mexico said last Friday that it would soon lift a ban on Canadian cattle imports that dated back to 2003.
Protein from the brains and spines of diseased animals can spread BSE. Canada has now also banned this risk material from all types of livestock feed.
Through February 20, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported 231,942 head of Canadian cattle entered the United States, up about 25 percent from the 184,504 for the same time a year earlier.
There was no noticeable reaction to the news in Chicago cattle futures markets.
“Early in our mad cow reporting it would have been a big deal, but now we are getting used to it,” said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities Inc.
Consumers have continued to eat beef after previous mad cow cases both in the United States and in Canada, he said.
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Calgary and Bob Burgdorfer and Jerry Bieszk in Chicago)
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway