The first U.S. case of mad cow disease in six years has surfaced in a dairy cow in central California, but the animal was not bound for the country’s food supply and poses no danger to Canadian or American consumers, according to one government agency.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said late Tuesday the discovery will not affect Canadians as both countries have implemented science-based measures to protect animal and human health. The agency also noted that US officials have confirmed that no part of this animal's carcass entered the food system.
Canada imported $835 million of American beef last year, up from $499 million in 2007
The cow was found at a Hanford, Calif., rendering plant belonging to Baker Commodities, a company that produces components in animal feed and grease. Dennis Luckey, the company's executive vice-president, said Tuesday that the cow tested positive after it was selected for regular random government testing.
The U.S. Agriculture Department announced the find earlier in the day, confirming that the cow is the fourth discovered in the United States to test positive for the disease. John Clifford, the department's chief veterinary officer, said the cow from central California did not enter the human food chain and that U.S. meat and dairy supplies are safe.
"There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal," Clifford told reporters at a hastily convened news conference.
Clifford did not say when the disease was discovered or exactly where the cow was raised.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. The World Health Organization has said that tests show that humans cannot be infected by drinking milk from BSE-infected animals.
A massive outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom that peaked in 1993 was blamed for the deaths of 180,000 cattle and more than 150 people.
The disease is always fatal in cattle. In the three prior confirmed cases of BSE in the United states, one was a Canadian-born cow that tested positive in 2003 in Washington state, one was in 2005 in Texas and another was in 2006 in Alabama.
The U.S. Agriculture Department is sharing its lab results with international animal-health officials in Canada and Britain, Clifford said. He said the California cow is an atypical case in that it didn't get the disease from eating infected cattle feed.