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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced yesterday that a six-year-old cow in Alberta has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease.

It is the fourth case of mad cow found in Canadian cattle since 2003.

"This case, of course, is unwelcome, but it's not unexpected," said Brian Evans, the inspection agency's chief veterinary officer. "We have always maintained that we could find a small number of additional cases through our active surveillance program." Evans also said that the cow had not entered the food supply and that there was no threat to human health.

It was just six months ago that the US reopened its borders to Canadian cattle, saying that it was satisfied that sufficient systems were in place to prevent further spread of the disease. Mike Johanns, the US Secretary of Agriculture, said that nothing has happened to change his mind.

"I anticipate no change in the status of beef or live cattle imports to the U.S. from Canada under our established agreement," he said in a prepared statement. "As I've said many times, our beef trade decisions follow internationally accepted guidelines that are based in science."

Of course, this also occurs just days after Japan halted shipments of American beef into Japan because animal spines were found in three boxes of frozen beef being brought into the country. The discovery reignited concerns in Japan about the possibility that beef tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – better known as mad cow disease – could be coming from US suppliers. Japan’s two-year-old ban on US beef was lifted after months of intense negotiation on the condition that imported US beef come from cattle no older than 20 months and that spinal cords, brains and other parts blamed for spreading the human variant of mad-cow disease be removed.

There have been two confirmed cases of mad cow disease in the US.
KC's View:
It is not the cows that are being detected that will worry consumers and activists. It is the cows that are not be detected because they are not being tested.

We know there is disagreement on this issue, but we can’t escape the gnawing feeling that not enough is being done. The percentages of cows being tested in the US are just too low, and the odds too high that something is slipping through the cracks.