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Canadian cattle slip past USDA safeguards

19 February 2007

US - Hundreds of cattle from Canada, which this month confirmed its ninth case of mad cow disease, have entered the United States without government-required health papers or identification tags, according to documents obtained by cattlemen in Washington state.
The documents, consisting largely of correspondence between state officials and American cattle and meat companies, suggest problems with numerous truckloads of cattle that are shipped into this country almost daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched an investigation into the Canadian cattle trade based on the documents, according to a top department official.

Many of the documents note that cattle arrived in the U.S. without identification tags, or they had tag numbers that did not match the accompanying health certificates. Overall, the approximately 700 pages of records suggest that officials from Washington and possibly other states are having difficulty tracking hundreds of cattle that arrive from Canada each week.

Ranchers and food safety groups criticize the USDA, saying it has insufficiently monitored the movement of cattle into the U.S. Lax regulation of the border trade, these critics say, could lead to more mad cow cases in the U.S., undermining consumer confidence in beef.

Mad cow, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is a disease that attacks a cow's central nervous system. It is believed that humans can contract variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a disorder that eats away at the brain, by consuming meat from BSE-infected cattle.

Ear tags or electronic identification--EID--tags that are supposed to be on cattle entering the U.S. from Canada are meant to track the cattle in case of an outbreak of disease or other problem. Health certificates confirm the health of cattle and also that they are under 30 months old, because young cattle are not thought to be fully vulnerable to mad cow.

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Source: Chicago Tribune


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