May 19, 2009
Two US cattle and meat packer groups say the confirmation of another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, in Canada late Friday (May 15) will not affect the safety of US beef, but a third group disagrees and wants the government to take more action.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association's position on the latest BSE case is that "while this is unfortunate news," it "does not expect this case to affect the beef trade status between the United States and Canada or other countries," said Meghan Pusey, an NCBA spokeswoman, in an e-mail. "It is important to keep in mind that no part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems. The bottom line for our consumers - in the United States and around the world - remains the same: US beef is safe."
James Hodges, executive vice president at the American Meat Institute, said in an e-mail that "the discovery of another case of BSE in Canada is proof that the Canadian BSE surveillance system is working. Both the US and Canada take measures to protect both animal health and human health, including the removal of specified risk materials. The BSE risk status for Canada is unchanged."
The AMI represents meat packers and poultry processors.
Another industry group, R-CALF, however, disagrees and claims that the US Department of Agriculture's policy allowing importation of Canadian cattle over the age of 30 months exposes US meat supplies and consumers to "unnecessary risk." R-CALF has long been an opponent of the USDA's policy on imports, which it claims could allow animals with BSE to enter the US meat supply.
"There are no restrictions on these higher-risk OTM (over 30 months of age) cattle when they enter the United States," said R-CALF USA President Max Thornsberry in a press release issued Saturday. "These higher-risk cattle are allowed to commingle with the US herd, enter the US food supply and enter the non-ruminant US animal feed system. USDA has an absolute duty to protect the US cattle herd as well as US consumers from the introduction of BSE that is known to be occurring under the OTM Rule, and R-CALF is again calling on USDA to immediately rescind the OTM Rule."
R-CALF also said "when USDA implemented its OTM Rule, the agency stated that Canada's BSE prevalence was continuously decreasing and that Canadian cattle born after the export eligibility date of March 1, 1999, would "have an extremely low likelihood of exposure to BSE." Since that time, Canada has detected six additional BSE-positive cattle under very limited testing, and five of these cases were born - and therefore exposed to BSE - years after March 1, 1999."
Live cattle futures closed higher in most contracts Monday as traders were unmoved by the latest BSE case in Canada.