The Canadian Press reports that federal agriculture inspectors are looking into the possibility of another case of mad cow disease, a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Sunday.
“We have an ongoing testing program for BSE and that means from time to time we undertake confirmatory tests when we come up with a suspicious sample,” said Mark Van Dusen.
“We are undergoing such testing on a suspicious sample.”
Mr. Van Dusen said the animal must go to a Winnipeg lab for final tests. Inspectors should know within 48 hours if they have another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy on their hands.
He said there are no indications that any part of the animal entered the human-food or animal-feed systems.
Canada’s beef and dairy cattle breeding industry remains shut out of American markets since BSE was discovered in an Alberta cow in May 2003.
The Americans reopened their border to young cattle last July after the two-year ban brought on by fear of mad cow disease.
When that happened, many people believed the crisis, which has cost Canada’s cattle industry more than $7-billion, was finally over.
But Canada has a surplus of about 900,000 older-cull cattle that can’t be shipped south because of lingering concerns they may harbour a risk of BSE.
Mr. Van Dusen couldn’t confirm the age of the animal currently being tested but said it is definitely older than 30 months. Younger cattle are believed to have a lower risk of developing BSE.
He said he is aware of rumours the animal is from Alberta.
Canadian beef recently returned to some supermarket shelves in Tokyo following the lifting of a two-year ban on imports. Japanese officials agreed to allow beef from North America back into the marketplace — provided it came from animals under 21 months.
Entry into Japan is considered key to the long-term recovery plan of Canada’s battered beef industry.
Cattle officials have pinned their hopes on a growing appetite from Pacific Rim countries to help reduce the reliance on the U.S. market, which gobbles up the vast majority of this country’s beef exports.
Japan closed its border to American beef a few days ago after inspectors found cattle backbone in a recent shipment from the United States.
Japan first imposed a ban on U.S. beef in December 2003 after the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in a U.S. herd.
It recently agreed to allow a resumption of imports, but only from cows aged 20 months or younger.