Foreign markets are being extra cautious about Canadian beef until an investigation into an Alberta cow found to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — or, as it is commonly called, “mad cow disease” — runs its course.
In the meantime, South Korea has temporarily banned imports of Canadian beef as a precaution.
None of the BSE-infected beef was allowed to reach human or animal feed markets, according to Canadian officials. Meanwhile, the northern Alberta farm from which the infected sample came is reportedly under quarantine.
Confirmed on Feb. 11 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Alberta cow is the first in Canada with BSE since 2011. BSE is a progressive, fatal neurological disease found in cattle. It is believed to be caused by prion-contaminated feed.
The next steps in the investigation are additional laboratory tests and collection of further information on the animal, its offspring, and its herd of origin to determine how and when it contracted the disease. CFIA’s investigation will focus on the feed supplied to the infected cow during its first year.
Canadian authorities are also investigating other cattle that are at “equivalent risk.” Those animals will be killed and then tested for BSE. Currently, there is no reliable way to test a live cow for BSE. Instead, scientists look at the animal’s brain tissue under a microscope to see if it has a spongy appearance. If so, the cow is confirmed with the disease.
Symptoms of BSE include lack of coordination, abnormal posture, or nervous or violent behavior, therefore the nickname “mad cow.” One of the key issues with diagnosing the disease early is that the symptoms can lay dormant for four to six years after the animal contracts BSE.
The World Health Organization for Animal Health rates Canada as a “controlled BSE risk” country, and industry sources said the current case is unlikely to change that.© Food Safety News