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Yet another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, has been found in Canada, this one in a cow that was born after feed restrictions designed to prevent the spread of BSE were put into place in 1997.

It is the second cow to have been identified as having the disease since the US announced that it was planning to allow the importing of live cattle from Canada, opening the border to such imports since the first case of mad cow was found there in May 2003.

In addition to the three cases of mad cow found in Canada, the one case of mad cow disease found in the US a little over a year ago was in a cow that had been born in Canada.

In addition to the two cows with BSE discovered in Canada in just the past few weeks, officials are trying to track down a cow that was born on the same farm as one of them and then was exported to the US and scheduled for slaughter. Since those two cows could have fed at the same trough, and the disease is transmitted through animal feed, it is at least possible that the exported cow could have had BSE.

While the Bush administration has said that it is looking into the new incidents, at this point the government has not decided to reverse its plans. However, it is likely that the new incidents could be helpful to the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), which has sued the US government looking to block the resumption of live cattle imports from Canada, saying that officials haven’t done enough to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.

No incidents of the human variation of mad cow, which can be fatal, have been identified in the US or Canada.
KC's View:
Canadian Agriculture Minister Andrew Mitchell said yesterday, “We continue to have confidence in the integrity of our current feed ban and that it protects animal and human health.”

But we sense a little bit of quiet desperation in that statement.

We are flabbergasted that the US is saying “we’re going to take a look at the situation,” as opposed to “stop.”

We’re not trying to indict the entire meat supply. Far from it. But there are issues of perception here, issues of confidence.

And, quite frankly, we have a lot less confidence in the government officials on both sides of the border than we do in the meat supply.