By Alex McCuaig
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Canada’s first case of mad cow disease since 2011 has at least temporarily rattled the industry after federal officials confirmed on Friday the diagnosis in a beef cow in Alberta.
“As part of the investigation, the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is seeking to confirm the age of the animal, its history and how it became infected,” stated the federal government agency’s press release issued Friday.
Last week’s confirmed case puts the total number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infected cattle at 19 in Canada since the first domestic case was found in 2003.
The news may have sent a chill through Alberta ranchers who have recovered from the 2003 record low beef prices to today’s historical highs but, as long as the case is isolated, so will its affect on the market, said Medicine Hat Feeding Company president Lyle Taylor.
“Back in 2011, there was no major impact to the beef industry,” said Taylor regarding a single case reported that year in a a six-year-old dairy cow.
“If the situation is the same, I’m expecting the same result.”
He said he is “shocked” another case has been reported and suspects it may be an older cow.
CFIA has yet to confirm the age of the cow despite being informed by provincial officials at least several days prior to Friday’s announcement.
Rich Smith, Alberta Beef Producers executive director, said while the most recent case of BSE isn’t good news, it does show the country’s monitoring system is working and an isolated case isn’t unexpected.
“We would expect that we would find isolated cases of it because that has been the history in other countries that have had BSE and move towards eliminating the disease,” said Smith.
“It has been four years since the last case and it is certainly disappointing — we were hoping the last case would be the last case — but we are still on track to eliminating the disease.”
Canada is currently rated as a controlled BSE risk country by the World Organization for Animal Health.
To garner negligible risk status, a country must not have a BSE reported case for 11 years following the birth of the youngest animal diagnosed.
Pending the age of the most recent confirmed case, Canada was on track to receive that status as soon as 2016.