Canadian inspectors testing for mad cow disease at British Columbia dairy farm |

Canadian inspectors testing for mad cow disease at British Columbia dairy farm

Associated Press Writer

TORONTO – Federal officials Thursday tested a British Columbia dairy cow suspected of contracting mad cow disease, potentially bad news for Canadian cattle ranchers still recovering from a two-year ban on their beef in the United States.The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it was trying to confirm whether it is a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.In humans, eating meat products contaminated with BSE has been linked to more than 150 deaths, mostly in Britain, from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and fatal nerve disease.The cow was identified on a Fraser Valley farm through the national BSE surveillance program. It would be the fifth case in Canada since May 2003, when the U.S. border was closed to Canadian beef after the sick cows were detected in Canada.In a written statement, the inspection agency said the case would have no bearing on the safety of Canadian beef if the cow is found to be positive for BSE, as no part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.Inspectors have tested roughly 100,000 animals since Canada’s first case was detected in Alberta and have said they expect to find isolated cases of the disease.”Canada has a suite of internationally recognized safeguards that work together to provide high levels of human and animal health protection,” the statement said.But if the six-year-old cow tests positive, it would be the second animal born after a ban on cattle feed went into effect in 1997 in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading.A cow from an Alberta farm tested positive for the disease in January.Preliminary results of the cow were positive for BSE. Final testing is under way and was expected to be completed over the holiday weekend.The cow’s age raises questions about the effectiveness of the ban, because the disease is believed to spread only when cattle eat feed containing certain tissues from infected cattle. Cattle protein was commonly added to cattle feed to speed growth until Canada – and the United States – banned the practice in 1997.If the B.C. cow tests positive for BSE, it could indicate a lack of compliance with the ban by Canadian feed plants or farmers.Trade in cows younger than 30 months, as well as meat, resumed last July with the United States because they are believed to be at lower risk for the disease.U.S. meatpacking firms would also be disappointed by the news, as the industry is eager to start allowing older Canadian cattle to be shipped to the United States.The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, which represents some 90,000 beef producers, estimated they lost more than $5.7 billion during the two-year ban.—–AP Food and Farm Writer Libby Quaid contributed to this report from Washington, D.C. and AP Writer Becky Bohrer contributed from Billings, Montana.Vail, Colorado

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