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Tara Weber

BNN Bloomberg Western Bureau Chief


Canada’s largest beef export market said it will not move to suspend beef imports from this country following a case of Atypical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly called mad cow disease, found last month. 

Mike Stepien, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said there is a simple reason behind its decision: “Atypical BSE does not pose a risk to other cattle. 

“The OIE [The World Organization for Animal Health] does not consider atypical cases of BSE to affect a country’s official BSE risk status recognition, as atypical BSE is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate and does not pose a risk to other cattle” said Stepien. 

“Therefore, the United States does not restrict imports based on atypical cases of BSE.”
This will come as a relief to Canada’s beef producers. The U.S. is Canada’s largest export market by far. According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the U.S. accounts for 72 per cent of Canadian Beef exports, followed by Japan (11 per cent) and China (6.6 per cent).

On December 17, a case of atypical BSE was found in Alberta, prompting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to notify the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The CFIA noted the detection would not affect Canada's OIE risk status and said it underscores Canada's BSE surveillance program. 

Nevertheless, by January 6, three countries - China, the Philippines and South Korea – temporarily suspended imports of Canadian beef or requested that Canada not certify exports for their markets, according to Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada. 

The CFIA said additional information on Canada's BSE safeguards were provided to South Korea and China earlier this week and said it would be provided to the Philippines soon.