Canadian Agriculture Minister Bob Speller made the announcement on Wednesday. It came a day after Ottawa said it would await the results of a British laboratory test to further establish that a dairy cow had been diseased with the deadly bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.
However, Speller stopped well short of a total ban on US beef products – in contrast to the US imposed ban on Canadian beef after the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease in Alberta earlier this year.
That US ban is due to be partially lifted early next month.
Speller said he was not interested in “tit-for-tat measures” and that Canada’s decision was based entirely on scientific advice.
“Canada will continue to allow the importation of products and animals which, on the basis of scientific risk assessment and measures that Canada has put into place, do not pose a risk to human health,” he told reporters.
These include boneless beef from cattle aged 30 months or less at slaughter, live cattle destined for immediate slaughter, and dairy products, semen, embryos and protein-free tallow.
Speller said these measures had been taken after he had consulted with US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, as well as representatives of the Canadian cattle and distribution industries.
Meanwhile, the fallout from the first ever case of mad cow disease in the United States widened.
Japan, Mexico and South Korea, the top three markets for US beef exports, banned imports after it was disclosed that a cow tested positive for the brain-wasting disease, a discovery that threatened the $27 billion US cattle industry.
US Agriculture Secretary Ann
South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and Colombia have also temporarily halted imports of American beef.
US Agriculture Secretary Veneman tried to calm consumer and market fears, calling the case an isolated instance and insisting the food supply to be safe.
But investors vented their worries by selling off stock in restaurant chains that specialize in hamburgers, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, and cattle futures fell by the limit allowed by the exchange.
An outbreak of the disease in Europe more than a decade ago resulted in about 137 human deaths, mostly in Britain, and the destruction of about 3.7 million cattle in that country.
Investigators are trying to pin down where the infected cow picked up the disease. The animal has been traced to a large dairy farm in the town of Mabton (population 2000) in Washington state.
Beef possibly consumed
Verns Moses Lake Meats, a small slaughter company in Washington state, recalled more than 4500kg of raw beef due to concerns the products may contain meat tainted with mad cow disease.
However, much of the beef linked to the sick cow may have already been consumed in the form of hamburger, said officials.
Scientists believe humans can be infected with a similar disease by eating meat contaminated with diseased brain or spinal column material. BSE is not found in meat like steaks and roasts.
Questions remain about why the cow was sent to the slaughterhouse after reportedly showing signs of sickness at the farm.
The farm where the dairy cow was found was quarantined and officials were checking with other processing plants where parts of the animal were sent.