"As I've said many times, our beef trade decisions follow internationally accepted guidelines that are based in science," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns after speaking with his Canadian counterpart, Andy Mitchell. "We will continue to evaluate this situation as the investigation continues. I have directed our USDA team to work with Canada and its investigative team. Minister Mitchell has pledged his full cooperation."
Johanns expressed his confidence in the safety of beef and in the safeguards the United States and its approved beef trading partners have in place to protect America's food supply.
"We will continue to adhere to international guidelines in our relationships with all trading partners, and my hope continues to be that we achieve a system of science-based global beef trade," Johanns said.
Canadian officials reported earlier today that a 6-year-old cow from an Alberta farm tested positive for mad cow disease. The animal had not entered the human food or animal-feed systems, Dr. Brian Evans, Canada's chief veterinary officer, said, according to news reports.
Industry officials told reporters that the cow's age meant it could have contracted the disease by eating feed left over after a 1997 ban on the use of cattle parts in feed.
Evans said an extensive investigation was under way. He said the experiences of other countries show that very small amounts of feed purchased before the ban may have been retained on farms and lead to infection many years later.
"The fact that this animal would have been infected after the 1997 introduction of our feed ban is notable, but it is also consistent with the experiences observed around the world where BSE has been detected and where feed bans have been implemented," Evans said.
Canadian ranchers were hit hard after the United States banned cattle imports from its northern neighbor in May 2003 following the country's first case of mad cow disease. The U.S. border reopened to young Canadian cattle in July last year.