Calgary (Alberta), May 21 (Reuters): Canada reported its first case of mad cow disease in a decade today, sending shock waves through the North American food industry just weeks after the country’s economy was damaged by the SARS threat.
A cow in Alberta, Canada’s top cattle-producing province and a major beef exporter to the US, tested positive on Friday for brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, in a test conducted after it was slaughtered last winter, government officials said.
“The actual test was taken on January 31 from a cow in Fairview, Alberta,” an official with the Canadian Beef Export Federation said. “It’s just one isolated case of an 8-year-old cow.” But the report sent a major chill through the continent’s economy, triggering a ban on Canadian beef and sparking a sell-off in cattle futures and food-related stocks such as hamburger giant McDonald's Corp. . The currency in Canada, the world’s third-largest beef exporter, also fell after the news but later rebounded.
The animal was not processed and its northern Alberta herd of 150 animals will be slaughtered, as will any other found to be affected, Canadian agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief told a nationally televised news conference in the Alberta capital of Edmonton. Vanclief said he did not know the cow’s origin.
“The investigation to date indicates the animal in question was sent to a rendering plant after slaughter. I want to stress that the animal did not go into the food chain,” he said.
Other herds had yet to be quarantined. “We’ve only been investigating this for about 24 hours,” a scientist said. The US quickly slapped a temporary ban on imports of Canadian cattle, sheep and goats as well as meat and other products.