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Mad Cow Disease in USA: Profits Take Priority, Part I

On March 10, 2010, seventy-six organizations representing millions of Americans sent a letter to the USDA asking for greater protection against cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease entering the US from Canada. This letter was sent after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed, in February, the 18th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, in a cow aged 72 months found dead on an Alberta farm.

BSE is a disease that causes a spongy degeneration of the brain and spinal cord. Humans can contract the disease by eating the tissues of an infected animal. The infectious agent is a protein that has changed shape named a prion.

The BSE cow was detected through Canada's national BSE surveillance program but was not posted on the CFIA website for two weeks.

USDA regulations permit Canadian cattle born after March 1, 1999 to be imported into the US with BSE testing. Under these guidelines, the BSE cow that died in Alberta could have entered the US while it was alive. Not only that, but this dead cow was one of 11 such animals with BSE that could have entered the US.

The USDA maintains that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service determined that the risk of BSE with Canadian animal trade is negligible and that it is keeping with international standards established by the World Organization for Animal Health.

This is in stark contrast to the USDA response when BSE was first found in northern Alberta in 2003: Canadian cattle were banned.