OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA — A confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is feed-related, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported on Feb. 20. But the affected cow was born in March 2009 — almost two years after Canada implemented an enhanced feed ban to block the spread of the disease.
The agency said its investigation will focus on a review of on-farm animal and feed records to verify other animals at risk of developing BSE. Canada introduced the enhanced feed ban in 2007. The enhanced controls were adopted to prevent potential consumption of prion-infected material by livestock by excluding from livestock feed suspect materials such as bone and meat additives. So far, federal officials in Canada say they don’t know how an animal born after the feed ban became infected with BSE.
“The CFIA will determine the source of the feed used at the birth farm in 2009 and assess any potential risk factors in relation to the feed used,” said Paul Mayers, vice-president, Policy and Programs, CFIA. “As a precautionary measure, CFIA inspectors will review the records of the feed mills from which the feeds were sourced to verify compliance with the enhanced feed ban. The enhanced feed ban was put in place to accelerate Canada's progress towards the reduction of this disease.”
In a statement, the Canadian Cattlemen's Associations said, “This information is key to pinpointing the source of transmission. The average incubation period for classical BSE is 4-7 years of age. Transmission usually occurs in the first year of an animal’s life, as that is when they are most susceptible; thus the exposure to any residual risk would have occurred years ago.”
CFIA was able to confirm to the location of the infected cow’s birth farm and the index farm in northern Alberta near Edmonton. The index farm is in the municipality of Spruce Grove, however CFIA declined to release the municipality of the birth farm because the agency is still actively investigating the site. The CFIA traced the cow to its original birth farm through records at the index farm as well as a tattoo in the ear of the animal.
CFIA detected the new case through Canada's national BSE surveillance program. Since the discovery, South Korea has temporarily banned imports of Canadian beef. Canada remains listed as a “controlled BSE risk” country with the World Organization for Animal Health, and that designation is not expected to change.