July 22, 2018

Canada Confirms New Case of Mad Cow

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed its first case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a beef cow since 2011 and the fourteenth case since 2005. The government says that no part of the animal’s carcass entered the human or animal food systems. These cases, in addition to the consumers’ right to know, are one reason consumer’s advocates want to see country of origin labels (COOL) on imported meats.

CowsThe beef cow was from Alberta, Canada. BSE is a progressive, fatal disease with no cure. It is caused by proteins called prions that are not destroyed by cooking. The prions are also very resistant to UV radiation, disinfectants, and ionizing radiation, but can be destroyed by a combination of those treatments and time.

The disease has a very long incubation period of up to 8 years. People can get the disease by eating food contaminated with the prion; these are found in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive tract. During slaughter, edible beef can be contaminated with the prion if special precautions are not taken.

The government is confirming the age of the animal, its history, and how it developed the disease, focusing on the feed given to the animal. The first cases of BSE in the 1970s most likely occurred because cows were given feed that contained meat and bone meal. Any animals assumed to have equivalent risk will be destroyed and tested for the disease.

Canada is a “controlled BSE risk” country. The case was detected through the national BSE surveillance program. The case¬†will be reported to the OIE and on the CFIA web site.

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