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From: TSS ()
Date: February 17, 2005 at 7:14 pm PST

Canada, U.S. Urged to Test All Older Cattle for BSE
Thu February 17, 2005 6:29 PM GMT-05:00

By Roberta Rampton

CANMORE, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada and the United States should consider testing all cattle over the age of 30 months for mad cow disease to ensure they find all cases of the brain-wasting disease, a French expert said on Thursday.

The two countries would then have to destroy only the infective material, such as brain tissue and spinal cords, that can spread bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, said Jean-Philippe Deslys, research director for the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).

That would assure consumers and export markets that the meat is safe, he added.

"You can have, on one side, better protection of your population and, on the other side, lower cost," said Deslys, who helped develop a BSE rapid screening test that is distributed by Bio-Rad.

"It will be of benefit both to health and to the economy," Deslys said in an interview with Reuters.

Deslys was in North America to discuss research reported in January in The Lancet medical journal that showed one infected cow can contaminate an estimated 490 to 1,400 animals.

After finding their first cases of mad cow disease, Canada and the United States banned brains, spines and other risk materials from cattle over 30 months of age from food for human consumption.

Canada's first homegrown case was detected in May 2003, and it found two more cases in December 2004 and January 2005.

The first U.S. case was found in December 2003 in a cow that was born in Canada.

Canadian officials have said removing the risk materials protects public health, making widespread tests unnecessary.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has tested more than 30,000 old and sickly cattle since January 2004 in a quest to establish the prevalence of mad cow disease in the cattle herd.

Deslys said testing all older cattle would give Canada an accurate count of infected animals. Destroying all risk material from sick animals would eliminate any chance that the material could infect other cattle.

European countries, which test all older animals and destroy all the risk materials, could also reconsider their measures to destroy only those that are infective, he said.

Canada has proposed stricter feed rules that would require all risk materials from older cattle to be destroyed, rather than used as protein in pig and cattle feed, to reduce the chance that cattle could eat contaminated material.

Deslys said he wants to spur scientific debate on BSE control measures, but noted that regulatory changes may be out of scientists' hands because of the economic impact of trade bans resulting from cases of the disease.

"All these are political decisions at the end," he said. "What we say is one thing, but you have many aspects which are not scientific."

"All these are political decisions at the end," he said. "What we say is one thing, but you have many aspects which are not scientific."



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