BSE case sparks old fears

Over this past year, things have been looking up for the cattle industry.

Over this past year, things have been looking up for the cattle industry. With astoundingly high cattle prices, producers seemed to finally get some return for all of their long-run efforts.

But with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirming a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a progressive and fatal neurological disease found in cattle, in an Alberta beef cow this past week, that positive outlook may have been partially clouded.

The CFIA stated the infected cow was found on a farm in northern Alberta and no part of the animal carcass has made its way into human or animal food systems.

After confirmation of the case, an investigation was immediately launched by the CFIA to determine the age of the animal, its history and exactly how it became infected.

This latest case was detected through the national BSE surveillance program.

“The investigation will focus in on the feed supplied to this animal during the first year of its life,” stated a CFIA release. “The agency will also trace out all animals of equivalent risk. Equivalent risk animals will be ordered destroyed and tested for BSE.”

This was the first reported case of BSE in Canada since 2011. Canada still holds onto to its “controlled BSE risk” country status, a hurdle cleared in 2007, as recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Now it is to wonder if this recent case will affect cattle prices or the worst fear, again close international markets to Canadian beef ?

Experts are soothing industry fears, saying that this case won’t affect current exports of Canadian cattle or beef, mainly because the discovered case does not change

Canada’s controlled BSE risk status, although, South Korea has already announced that they have closed their border to all Canadian Beef imports.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has noted that this reported case appears to be isolated and the finding should not impact current exports of Canadian cattle and beef.

They also added that the controlled risk status was something Canada gained due to effective BSE surveillance mitigation and eradication measures.

But let’s not forget how the first homegrown case of BSE in Alberta crippled the industry in 2003. International markets were closed to Canadian beef and the outlook was bleak.

It’s taken the cattle industry over a decade to recover, and this most recent case of BSE brings to light an important point – that the Canadian BSE surveillance program continues to play a very important role in managing BSE and producers should remain consistent with the process. Alberta has been operating an effective BSE surveillance program for the past few years and let’s hope that we can continue to follow the proper procedures to keep our beef safe.