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From: TSS (216-119-143-128.ipset23.wt.net)
Subject: Canadian animals back in forefront of risk discussions
Date: January 4, 2005 at 8:07 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Canadian animals back in forefront of risk discussions
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 08:59:57 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
To: BSE-L@LISTSERV.KALIV.UNI-KARLSRUHE.DE


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Jan. 4, 2005, 12:14AM


Canadian animals back in forefront of risk discussions

By DAVID IVANOVICH
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Last week, the United States designated Canada a
"minimal-risk" country for mad cow disease, the first cattle-exporting
nation to receive such a stamp of approval.


Four days later, Canada confirmed its second case of the brain-devouring
disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture insisted Monday the discovery of an
Alberta dairy cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy would
not alter the Bush administration's plan to allow younger Canadian
cattle to resume crossing the border.

But the revelation gives fodder to critics who argue that Washington is
acting rashly by relaxing a ban on Canadian cattle imports.

"Should we be so ready to trade with countries that could risk the
health of our own industry?" asks Shane Sklar, executive director of the
Lockhart-based Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas. "I don't
think that's smart at all."

But the beef industry is divided on the issue, with many cattle ranchers
arguing the risks are easily outweighed by the benefits of reduced
restrictions on foreign trade.

Last week, the USDA announced plans to allow Canadian cattle ranchers to
resume exporting cattle less than 30 months of age to the United States
beginning March 7. Regulators chose the 30-month cutoff because mad cow
disease generally does not develop before that age, although there are
some reports of the ailment beginning as early as 20 months.

The Alberta cow was born in 1996, before a 1997 ban on use of certain
feeds believed to be the most likely cause of transmission of the disease.

Canada discovered its first case of mad cow disease in May 2003. In
December of that year, a cow born in Canada and shipped to Washington
state was found to have the disease.

When assessing the risks posed by reopening the border, USDA officials
assumed Canada might experience additional cases of mad cow.

In fact, Canada, with about 5.5 million cattle over 2 years old, could
confirm 11 cases of mad cow disease and still be classified as a
minimal-risk nation, said Ron DeHaven, administrator of the USDA's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

World Organization for Animal Health guidelines deem a country as low
risk if, for each year over a four-year period, it has fewer than two
cases per million head of cattle over 2 years old.

USDA officials also argue that Canada has stringent requirements in
place, including a ban from the human food chain of specific body parts
most likely to harbor the disease.

"USDA remains confident that the animal and public health measures that
Canada has in place ... provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers
and livestock," DeHaven said.

USDA officials estimate Canada will export about 2 million head of
cattle to the United States by the end of this year.

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, however, traders were not so
optimistic. Cattle futures for February delivery rose 0.575 cent, or 0.7
percent, to close at 88.4 cents a pound on Monday as traders speculated
that the latest mad cow incident would force the U.S. government to
delay relaxing the import rules.

Trade groups like the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle
Raisers Association and Amarillo's Texas Cattle Feeders Association
applauded the effort to normalize trade relations with Canada.

But consumer activists like Craig Culp, with the Center for Food Safety
in Washington, argued "it would be a bit foolhardy" not to be concerned
about the risk assessment.

Culp considers some of the USDA's assumptions "capricious."

"Try telling someone who's at the store buying beef and is going to feed
it to the kids, 'Oh, we calculate that 11 is still a minimal risk.' "

The American Meat Institute, however, argues regulators didn't go far
enough to relax the import ban.

The Washington-based trade group, which represents meat packers, filed
suit in federal court here in Washington last week to force the
government the lift the ban on imports of older cattle.

Canada's regulations are virtually identical to those in the United
States, noted Mark Dopp, the institute's senior vice president for
regulatory affairs.

Beef from cattle over 30 months of age can be shipped to the United
States, while live animals cannot.

"Calling Canadian beef unsafe is like calling your twin sister ugly,"
Dopp said.

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/business/2976620

TSS

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