“USDA is placing Canada under its BSE restriction guidelines and will not accept any ruminants or ruminant products from Canada pending further investigation,” Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said. “We are dispatching a team to Canada to assist in the investigation and will provide more information as it becomes available.
“The United States remains diligent in its BSE surveillance and prevention efforts,” she said in a statement issued Tuesday. “In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of most mammalian protein in the manufacture of animal feed intended for cows and other ruminants to stop the way the disease is thought to spread.”
Veneman said she had spoken with Lyle Vanclief, Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food minister, and that it appeared Canada was taking “all appropriate measures” to handle the situation.
“Information suggests that risk to human health and the possibility of transmission to animals in the United States is very low.”
Canadian officials said that the infected cow was slaughtered Jan. 31 because it displayed symptoms of what appeared to be pneumonia. Further tests on the cow’s head in England confirmed that it was infected with BSE.
They said the cow did not enter the food chain and that the remainder of the 150-cow herd on the Alberta farm had been quarantined and would be tested for BSE and destroyed.
Officials with the Canada Beef Export Federation said the cattle industry would “leave no stone unturned” until they returned the country to its formerly BSE-free status. Canada, meanwhile, voluntarily stopped issuing certificates that its cattle are BSE-free until it can complete its investigation.
Following the disclosure, Secretary Veneman made several TV news appearances, seeking to allay any impressions that BSE had been allowed to enter the food chain in the United States.
She told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she intended to have a steak for dinner Tuesday night.
“Since 1989, the U.S. government has taken a series of preventive actions to protect against this animal disease,” the USDA statement said.
“This includes USDA prohibitions on the imports of live ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, goats and most ruminant products from countries that have or are considered to be at risk for having BSE.”
In the 2002 fiscal year, she said, USDA tested 19,990 cattle for BSE using a targeted surveillance approach designed to test the highest risk animals, including downer animals, animals that die on the farm, older animals and animals exhibiting signs of neurological distress.
The Canadian investigation was expected to focus on how a single animal in a remote area of western Canada could develop the disease. The only previous case of BSE in North America also involved a cow in Alberta that was born in Britain. That case was confirmed in December 1993.