The CFIA Chronicle

Edition 3 – October 2017

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Bovine tuberculosis: a tough adversary

A red barn with a silo

Last fall, bovine producers in Western Canada were hit with the challenge of dealing with an old foe– bovine tuberculosis.

A cow from a Canadian herd was confirmed as being infected with bovine tuberculosis when it was slaughtered at an establishment in the USA. The industry braced itself for the robust but necessary measures to prevent disease spread, protect Canadian herds and sustain access to international markets.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) launched a three-stage investigation. First, limiting the potential spread of the disease by identifying the farm of origin and putting in place movement controls and quarantines on that farm and other premises known to have had contact with the infected herd. The infected herd and several other high-risk herds that co-mingled in community or shared pastures were tested and destroyed, with compensation to the owners.

Next, investigators identified all other animals that had left the infected herd within the past five years (the "trace out" phase). These animals were quarantined, tested and all identified as negative for bovine TB.

To date, there have been six confirmed cases of bovine TB, all from the original infected herd, but there has been a significant impact on producers whose farm operations were interrupted and in some cases, devastated by the loss of herds built over several generations.

Summer 2017 saw the start of the third stage of the CFIA's investigation, which includes "trace in" activities. These activities are designed to identify herds that provided animals to the infected herd over the past five years. Testing will continue through fall 2017, with an aim to determine how the disease was introduced to the infected herd. On-farm testing is expected to be largely completed by the end of the year. Although critical to the overall investigation and to Canada's bovine tuberculosis eradication program, it is possible that the source of the infection may never be found.

Working together

Bovine tuberculosis is a challenging disease; infected animals often do not show any symptoms and the disease can lay dormant for years. This doesn't prevent the CFIA from doing everything it can to reduce the risk of additional outbreaks and to ensure that foreign markets stay open for Canadian producers.

Canada is recognized internationally as having a strong animal health and food safety system. This disease outbreak shows the importance of having a strong traceability ystem. The CFIA is working with the livestock industry, the provinces and territories, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to improve our traceability regulation and to encourage producers, farmers and operators to identify animals, premises and animal movements. This will make it easier and faster to trace animals during disease outbreaks and support improved food safety through all steps of production. This is important for the health of animals and Canada's economy. The quality and food safety reputation of Canadian beef are key elements in opening and maintaining access to export markets.

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Did You Know?

Ask CFIA is your single point of entry for questions about current regulatory requirements. Since June 2016, over 1500 regulatory questions have been answered. Ask CFIA is available to most food businesses including those in the following sectors: fish and seafood, dairy, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, maple, honey and egg and egg products. Have a regulatory question? Ask CFIA.

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