Billings, Mont.Yet again, R-CALFUSA learned through the rumor mill yesterday that Canada had detected the country's 18th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a 72-month-old Angus cow. Although Canadian officials were purported to have notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) last week, a phone call this morning to OIE revealed that Canada had not yet notified OIE of this latest discovery. However, R-CALF USA Communications Coordinator Shae Dodson was told via telephone by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that Canada, indeed, had discovered yet another case of BSE. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) later verified CFIA's report.
"The CFIA said the BSE-positive case was confirmed Feb. 25, 2010, which means the CFIA and all other governments who knew about this latest BSE case kept it a secret from the public for almost two weeks, said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "If we had not discovered this information, the public may never have known."
At six years of age, this particular animal would have been born in 2003 or 2004, making her the 18th Canadian-born BSE case and the 11th BSE-positive animal eligible to be exported to the United States. In November 2007, USDA implemented the OTM (over-30-months) Rule that allows the U.S. to import into the U.S. these high-risk Canadian cattle over 30 months of age, as long as such cattle were born after March 1, 1999.
Already this year, well over 40,000 older Canadian cows and bulls have been imported into the United States for domestic slaughter.
"Consumers now more than ever should be telling their grocers they want the products in the meat counter labeled with country-of-origin information so they can decide on their own whether to avoid products from countries with ongoing disease problems, particularly now that USDA chooses not to disclose such important disease information," said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group's animal health committee.
"Forty organizations representing consumers, the cattle industry and other livestock and farming interests sent a joint letter to USDA in November 2009 urging the new Administration to restore the United States' weakened import standards that are exposing the U.S. to a heightened risk of BSE," said Thornsberry. "It's well past time for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to listen to U.S. citizens and overturn the OTM Rule that is allowing the continuous introduction of BSE into the United States.
"There are no restrictions on these higher-risk OTM cattle when they enter the United States," he continued. "These higher-risk cattle are allowed to commingle with the U.S. herd, enter the U.S. food supply and enter the non-ruminant U.S. animal feed system. USDA has an absolute duty to protect the U.S. cattle herd as well as U.S. consumers from the introduction of BSE that is known to be occurring under the OTM Rule, and R-CALF is again calling on USDA to immediately rescind the OTM Rule."
"Since implementation of the 2007 OTM Rule, Canada has detected seven new cases of BSE, six of which met USDA's age requirement to be imported into the United States," Bullard said. "It is alarming that while Canada's BSE problem is ongoing, Canada has significantly reduced its surveillance testing and likely is detecting only a fraction of the BSE cases in the Canadian herd. This haphazard approach to BSE is endangering not only U.S. beef consumers, but the U.S. cattle herd, and we want USDA to immediately halt Canadian cattle imports."
According to Canadian data, Canada tested only 34,617 cattle for BSE in 2009. In 2008, 48,804 cattle were tested. In 2007, approximately 59,000 head were tested, and in January 2010, only 3,536 Canadian cattle were tested for the disease.
"Canada's BSE testing is voluntary, and based on the significant numbers of BSE-positive cattle detected under very limited testing, Canada's BSE prevalence rate is likely far higher than USDA estimated when it predicted that the OTM Rule would result in the importation of 19 BSE-infected cattle during the 20 years covered by USDA's risk modeling," Bullard pointed out. "The result is that the United States is assuming a much higher risk for the introduction of BSE than the negligible risk that USDA claims."
R-CALF USA, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, five national consumer groups and several individual ranchers have a pending lawsuit against USDA's OTM Rule in a South Dakota federal court. As a result of this litigation, the court ordered USDA to reopen the OTM Rule and "to revise any provisions of the OTM Rule it deems necessary."
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