Canadian officials have confirmed the first case of mad cow disease in the country since 2011, causing a rise in cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the spread of the progressive, fatal neurological disease among herds has the potential to impact Canada's estimated $2 billion in cattle exports.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it was working to identify the age of the animal, its production history and the cause of its infection. "The investigation will focus in on the feed supplied to this animal during the first year of its life," the agency told Reuters. No part of the animal infected reached the human food or animal feed chain, the agency said.
The news was partially behind a 2% rally Friday on CME contracts for delivery of cattle this spring, the news agency said.
Bruce Friedrich, the director of policy for Farm Sanctuary, a U.S.-based farm-animal protection organization, recently wrote in an editorial in the Chicago Tribune about a loophole in U.S. Department of Agriculture rules that could lead to the spread of mad cow disease in the U.S.
"The agency allows slaughterhouses to turn away animals that arrive for slaughter so sick that they cannot even walk ... so these animals, the ones most likely to be dangerously ill, escape inspection entirely," he wrote. "This massive mad-cow regulatory loophole is cruel to animals, and it makes consumption of mad cows and the spread of mad cow disease more likely."
Mad cow disease was linked to an outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the U.K. 20 years ago that resulted in fatalities and wreaked havoc on the country's food export market.