Cattle from Canada are safe for shipment to the United States, despite two new Canadian cases of mad cow disease, Agriculture Department investigators said Friday.
A team of experts traveled to Canada last month after two cows in Alberta tested positive for mad cow disease. The results of their investigation affirm that reopening U.S. borders on March 7 poses “virtually no risk to human or animal health,” said Ron DeHaven, administrator of the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
U.S. borders have been closed since Canada’s first case of mad cow disease in May 2003.
Only cattle younger than 30 months old will be allowed into the United States from Canada. That is because the level of infection is believed to rise with age.
Mad cow disease is the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. Humans who eat BSE-contaminated meat can contract a degenerative, fatal brain disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Investigators were testing Canada’s compliance with a ban on cattle remains in feed because that is how the disease is believed to spread. Both the United States and Canada banned cattle remains from feed in 1997.
One of the two new cases was a beef cow born after the feed ban, in March 1998. Canadian officials said it probably ate old feed made before the ban.
The U.S. team’s report said Canada has “a robust inspection program” and that its “overall compliance with the feed ban is good.”
A ranchers’ group suing to keep the border closed said the report is troubling to industry and consumers.
“USDA is very insistent upon reopening this border, despite the scientific evidence to suggest this is a very risky endeavor,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America.
The lone U.S. cow to test positive for BSE, in December 2003 in Washington state, also was imported from Canada.