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Koreans end elk imports

Koreans end elk imports

August 10, 2001 Calgary Sun by Michael Wood

Korean officials have stopped Canadian elk imports dead in their tracks after discovering shipments infected with a killer chronic wasting disease.

It's the first such moratorium on this country's product since the disease was discovered on Saskatchewan elk farms several years ago.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has informed Korean officials that shipments of elk from Saskatchewan farms were infected with CWD, dating back to 1994 and 1997," spokeswoman Frederique Moulin told the Sun yesterday.

"Since December 2000, there has been no import of Canadian deer or antlers or deer products (into Korea)."

Close to 4,500 farmed elk have been destroyed in Canada since the killer infection -- similar to mad cow disease -- was discovered here in 1996.

MORE TO BE KILLED

Moulin said 1,500 more are currently waiting to be killed.

In Alberta, tighter restrictions on elk movement have kept this province squeaky clean of the disease, said Bard Haddrell, a spokesman for Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

"We haven't had one case reported here," Haddrell said.

CWD, similar to BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, belongs to the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) group of diseases.

Scientists are unclear on the causes of CWD, which attacks the nervous systems and brains of deer and elk, or how it spreads.

The disease has no cure and animals in the advanced stages of infection exhibit weight loss, difficulty in swallowing and disorientation.

It is not thought to be harmful to humans. [Not thought by whom? There is evidence that CWD prions can infect human brain tissue--BSE coordinator]

In Asian countries, animals such as deer and elk are valued for their meat and antler velvet, used in homeopathic remedies and aphrodisiacs.

Until 2000, Korea was the single largest importer of Canadian elk products, representing about 80% of total exports.


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