Canada moves closer to improved BSE status


Canada is one step closer to reaching negligible risk status for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The scientific committee of the World Organization for Animal Health has indicated Canada’s application for a change in BSE status, from controlled risk to negligible risk, fulfills the needed requirements. Canada was designated as a controlled risk country for BSE in 2007.

OIE delegates are scheduled to vote on the matter at a general session at the end of May.

Risk status is one chapter in the BSE saga that began for Canada in 2003. A case of BSE discovered in one cow closed international borders to beef exports, causing billions in financial losses to the cattle sector.

Eighteen years later, Canada may find its way back to its pre-2003 status, when BSE was a little known or understood disease. All told, 20 animals were confirmed with the disease, 19 in Canada and one Canadian animal in the United States.

The last case of BSE in Canada was confirmed in 2015, in a cow born in 2009. To qualify for the new status, no cases can have occurred in animals born within the last 11 years. It also requires countries to identify, track and prevent infected animals and their cohorts from entering the food chain.

Negligible risk status could secure and improve access to export markets that were closed or otherwise restricted certain types of Canadian beef.

However, that status is not assured until the OIE votes.

“The recommendation by the OIE’s scientific commission to grant Canada the negligible status for BSE risk is an important first step,” said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Bob Lowe. “CCA respects the OIE review process and will await the final determination in May.”

OIE member countries have 60 days to request BSE information from Canada.

Federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the recommendation today, noting the federal government has worked closely with provinces and livestock industry officials to negotiate improved trade access.

“Today, beef producers can be pleased that Canada has taken an important step to being recognized as negligible risk for BSE. Although we still need to await the final vote, I am optimistic that this will soon allow them to expand their markets for cattle and beef exports to the U.S. and other foreign markets,” she said.

The OIE has 182 permanent delegates, including one from Canada, Dr. Jaspinder Komal of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Canada is one of six countries that are still deemed to have controlled risk of BSE. The other countries are Chinese Taipei, Ecuador, France, Greece and Ireland.