Prepared Foods January 10, 2005 enewsletter

A test has confirmed an Alberta dairy cow had Mad Cow Disease, the second case in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said. Veterinary officials said preliminary tests had been positive for the brain-wasting Mad Cow Disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The cow was born before feed rules designed to stop the spread of the disease were introduced.

Canadian authorities ordered to quarantine the cattle farm in the province of Alberta where the Mad Cow case had been registered. Experts from the CFIA are trying to discover if any of the calves of the cow, born nine years ago, were infected with BSE.

The carcass of the slaughtered cow has been kept for further tests.

Veterinaries are now checking all the cattle at the farm -- some 200 heads -- for whether the fodder contained animal protein, banned since 1997 because it is believed to contribute to the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

Just prior to the finding, the U.S., Canada's largest export market, said it it is recognizing Canada as a minimal-risk region for BSE and would accept imports of young, live cattle (under the age of 30 months) thought to be at low risk for the disease beginning March 7, stating:

"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,"

In the wake of the Mad Cow discovery, U.S. officials have said there are no plans to change that.

The U.S. introduced the ban after the discovery of an infected cow in the same province in May 2003. Canadian farmers sustained heavy losses because of the ban, estimated at more than US $4 billion.

Consumption of food contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy can be fatal for people, who may develop the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Two U.S. politicians said the ban on Canadian cattle should not be dropped until officials investigate whether feed rules are violated north of the border.

In a letter to the man nominated as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michael Johanns, the two cite what they describe as new information suggesting Canadian companies are flouting rules that ban feeding animal remains to cows.

That practice, considered the primary way Mad Cow Disease is spread, is banned in Canada.

U.S. Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Kent Conrad said regulators have discovered animal material in Canadian feed over the last 15 months, issuing import alerts to block products from 17 companies.

Recent inspections have revealed seven Canadian feed mills had "major non-compliance issues" and three failed to prevent contamination of cattle feed, they said.

The decision to allow cattle imports again rested in part on the department's determination Canada's feed ban has been rigorously enforced, the letter from Waxman and Conrad said.

"There is significant evidence that calls these findings into question," they wrote. "This evidence includes a series of import alerts from the Food and Drug Administration, as well as internal Canadian documents.

The letter noted a December article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Based on internal documents from the CFIA, the article said tests on cattle feed last year found it contained animal parts not listed in the ingredients.

Canadian officials responded last month, saying there is a “high level of compliance with the feed ban.”

Following this most-recent Mad Cow discovery, Canada says cattle infected with Mad Cow Disease may have been eaten by humans, but the health risks were extremely low.

The CFIA was tracking 141 cattle from the Alberta farm that raised Canada's second confirmed case of the disease, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said.

Some of those cows may have been made into animal or human food, said CFIA spokesman, Dr. Gary Little.

"At least a small number of them have been slaughtered and have entered the human-food system, potentially," Little said.