S. Korea bans Canadian beef over mad cow scare
Investigators tracking how cow contracted disease

South Korea on Sunday suspended the importation of Canadian beef because of fears ofmad cow disease.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed Friday that a cow in Alberta was infected with the disease. The farm in Northern Alberta is under quarantine while inspectors investigate.

The infected cow has been destroyed but it is not known how many farms the cow went through before arriving at the latest farm or if it infected others in the herd.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – a progressive brain disease that can prove fatal – is believed to originate and spread when cattle eat food derived from the brains and spines of infected cattle or sheep.

It is the first confirmed case in Canada since 2011.

Canadian Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he is "not at all” worried that other countries would ban Canadian beef.

"We have controlled risk status, which means you can have up to 12 outbreaks in any calendar year,” Ritz said. "We’ve stayed well below that.”

The World Organization for Animal Health gave Canada a "controlled risk” status after mad cow disease was discovered in 2011 in a Canadian cow.

South Korea became the first country to ban Canadian beef in the face of this latest scare and if the ban stays in place, it could hurt the industry and the Canadian economy.

In 2003, more than 30 countries including the United States banned the importation of Canadian beef following the discovery of mad cow disease. The government estimated the loss to the Canadian economy was $11 million a day.

A new surveillance system was put in place following that incident.

"We are close to eradicating this disease worldwide and Canadian producers, in Alberta especially, have been very good at participating in the surveillance program, submitting samples of animals for testing,” Dave Solverson, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, told the Edmonton Journal.

Under the program, about 30,000 test samples are collected and analyzed each year, 10,000 of those in Alberta, according to the province’s chief provincial veterinarian.

In 2012, South Korea lifted its nine-year ban of Canadian beef, put in place when the 2003 mad cow scare occurred.

Canada is the world’s third-largest exporter of beef and before the 2003 ban, South Korea was its fourth biggest market.

South Korea was expected to import as much at $24 million of Canadian beef in 2015.

Last Modified: 2015-02-16 09:17:33
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