Canadian cattle have significantly higher BSE risks than U.S. cattle

Three years ago, R-CALF USA's risk assessment expert Louis Anthony Cox, Jr., Ph.D., using available data from BSE testing in the United States and Canada, estimated that the prevalence rate of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada was greater than 5.5 cases per million head of adult cattle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently estimates the prevalence of BSE in the Canadian cattle herd is "26 fold higher" than in U.S. cattle. The CDC estimate is explained on its website at

At least in part because of Cox's estimate, the U.S. District Court - District of Montana (District Court), in March 2005, issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from resuming imports of Canadian cattle and beef. However, USDA continued to ignore evidence of the risk of BSE in Canadian cattle and appealed the District Court's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Circuit).

In July 2005, the 9th Circuit lifted the preliminary injunction, and USDA immediately allowed resumption of imports of Canadian cattle under 30 months of age (UTM).

However, Cox's analysis also warned of two things: 1) The BSE prevalence rate in Canada appeared to be very significantly higher than the U.S. prevalence rate; and, 2) There was a "near statistical certainly" that resuming imports of cattle from Canada would, under current conditions, lead to some BSE cases being imported into the United States. USDA rejected these warnings, as well as those of many other experts on the disease, and has persisted in its efforts to fully restore imports of all Canadian cattle and beef.

On Jan. 9, 2007, USDA published a proposed rule that would allow Canadian cattle over 30 months of age (OTM) to be imported into the United States, in which the agency substantially increased its estimates of BSE prevalence in Canada. USDA's revised BSE prevalence rate for Canada, ranging as high as 3.9 cases per million head of cattle, with 6.8 cases per million head of adult cattle representing 95 percent certainty, has confirmed the accuracy of Cox's initial estimate, figures previously rejected by the agency.

"Additional years of data have strengthened and confirmed Dr. Cox' early estimates and warnings," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"In a recent independent analysis, the CDC agreed that, as Dr. Cox has warned in written testimony, BSE prevalence rates in Canada are indeed much higher than in the United States - not just double, or quadruple - but a whopping 26 times higher," he pointed out.

"To prevent the second part of Dr. Cox' statistical prediction from also coming true - that USDA policies will result in BSE cases being imported from Canada into the U.S. cattle herd - it is essential that the agency take prompt action by strengthening U.S. import restrictions for Canadian cattle and beef," Bullard continued.

"USDA needs to take these findings seriously and stop putting political considerations ahead of important matters of public health and safety," Bullard emphasized.

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