In a joint briefing, chief veterinary officers at the US Department of Agriculture and Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there is now DNA evidence linking the BSE-positive cow from Washington state to a Canadian herd in Alberta, Canada. Both authorities conducted independent DNA tests, and both tests conclude the same results.
Setting off a series of trade bans, on 20 May last year Canada confirmed its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from a cow in Alberta. But this week officials maintained that there is, as yet, no link between the two.
"We have not at this point got sufficient evidence to make any definitive feed link between the two farms,"Dr. Brian Evans, the Chief Veterinary Officer at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told reporters. "They did not buy from a common feed mill. They did not have similar type rations on their farms," he added.
Import certificates show the infected cow was shipped from Canada to Washington state in September 2001, along with 80 or 81 others. Another batch of 17 cattle from the same Canadian farm was shipped across the border later, officials said.
Dr. Evans confirmed to reporters that the government is actively looking to find the remaining animals from the herd. 'We will be and have been pursuing in the tracing process whether there are any remaining animals in Canada from that herd which was dispersed in 2001 that would be of interest in terms of a further testing or depopulation effort, as was carried out in May,' said Dr. Evans.
Trying to kick start the $3.2bn beef export business impacted by immediate bans from key trading partners - notably Japan - Terry Stokes from the US National Cattlemen's Beef Association said yesterday : 'It cannot be overemphasised that the BSE agent is not found in steaks, roasts and ground beef. For that reason, we continue to urge our trading partners to resume trade for US beef exports.
The US Institute of Food Technologists also put its weight behind the industry this week when IFT president Ann Hollingsworth said: "Finding a case of BSE in the United States does not mean the system is broken. It means our system for detection and response works."
"The IFT supports the policies USDA has designed to further protect against BSE including banning of all downer cattle from the human food chain, prohibiting air-injection stunning during slaughter, and strengthening the regulation of Specified Risk Materials," she added.
The US is the 24th country to diagnose a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy within its borders.