Canadian officials have found a third animal infected with mad cow disease -- an almost 7-year-old beef cow with no known connection to the other infected cattle.
The cow was born after Canada banned the use of cattle feed that includes animal parts to try to keep the deadly infection from spreading. But officials of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said use of contaminated feed was the most likely source of infection.
_____Mad Cow Disease_____
Mixed Reaction on Canadian Beef (The Washington Post, Jan 4, 2005)
Canada Confirms Second Mad Cow Case (Associated Press, Jan 2, 2005)
Canada Is Checking Another Animal for Mad Cow Disease (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
U.S. to Reopen Border for Import of Some Canadian Cattle (The Washington Post, Dec 30, 2004)
USDA Rules Out Mad Cow Disease in Animal (The Washington Post, Nov 24, 2004)
It was the second discovery of an infected cow in Canada in two weeks, and both came just after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a controversial plan to reopen the border to imports of live Canadian cattle. The United States halted trade in live cattle from Canada after the first infected animal was discovered there in 2003.
Despite the two new cases, the USDA said it will resume cross-border trade.
"We remain confident that the animal and public health measures that Canada has in place to prevent [mad cow disease], combined with existing U.S. domestic safeguards, provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers and livestock," said W. Ron DeHaven, administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "The result of our investigation and analysis will be used to evaluate appropriate next steps."
Because the newly discovered animal was born after Canada imposed its feed ban, however, the agency will send a technical team to Canada "to evaluate the circumstances surrounding these recent finds," DeHaven said.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a rare but always fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected meat. In addition to the three infected cows in Canada, an infected animal born in Canada was found in late 2003 on a farm in Washington state.
The latest animal was the youngest found in North America so far -- 6 years, 9 months old when it was slaughtered. It also is the first North American case found in a beef cow rather than a dairy cow.
The American Meat Institute, the nation's largest meat and poultry trade association, said the discovery of a third infected animal in Canada is no cause for concern.
"The U.S. should move forward with its decision to import live Canadian cattle and meat products, because the firewalls to ensure BSE prevention and food safety are intact," said James Hodges, president of the institute's research and education foundation. "BSE-infected cattle have been detected in Canada, and might be detected in the U.S., because our BSE-prevention programs work."
But on Monday, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, a group representing mostly smaller-scale cattle producers, sued the U.S. agency to block the proposed reopening of the border to live animals.
"This final rule will expose U.S. consumers to increased risk of a fatal disease associated with BSE-contaminated meat and will increase the risk of BSE infection in U.S. cattle," said Leo McDonnell Jr., president of the legal fund. "Additionally, it will expose U.S. cattle producers to severe economic hardship.
Two Democratic lawmakers recently called for hearings into the USDA decision.
Canadian cattle producers, as well as large U.S. multinational companies with Canadian facilities, have lobbied hard for a resumption of trade in live cattle.