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Canada finds 15th BSE case in B.C.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn’t expect the discovery of Canada’s 15th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) to affect exports of Canadian cattle or beef.

CFIA on Monday confirmed BSE in a seven-year-old B.C. dairy cow, which was found through the national BSE surveillance program. As usual in these cases, no part of the animal’s carcass went into the food or feed chain, CFIA said.

Though the agency didn’t specify where in B.C. the animal was found, it said the animal’s birth farm has been identified and an investigation is underway, tracing the animal’s birth herdmates and possible sources of infection.

Though the animal was born well after Canada imposed its ban on ruminant-to-ruminant feeding in 1997, CFIA noted its age and location “are consistent with previous cases detected in Canada.”

The animal is Canada’s 15th case of BSE, not counting an Alberta-born BSE-positive animal that was found in Washington state in 2003 and is typically credited to Canada. The case confirmed Monday is also B.C.’s fourth, compared to 10 cases from Alberta and one from Manitoba.

Canada remains classified as a “controlled risk” country for BSE, as recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Safeguards in Canadian beef processing — such as the removal from beef carcasses of all tissues known to harbour prions, and those tissues’ exclusion from use in food, feed or fertilizer — are used to protect both the Canadian cattle herd and beef consumers.

CFIA said Monday that its ongoing BSE surveillance program has been “highly successful in demonstrating the low level of BSE in Canada” and “continues to play an important role in Canada’s strategy to manage BSE.”

The agency has previously said that as the level of BSE in this country continues to decline, detection of a small number of cases from time to time is fully expected and “in line with the experiences of other countries.”

BSE-infected beef in other countries has been linked to cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a related brain-wasting ailment in humans.

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