- CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters)
- Canada reported its first case of mad cow disease in a decade on Tuesday,
sending shock waves through the North American food industry just weeks
after the country's economy was damaged by the SARS threat.
- A cow in Alberta, Canada's top cattle-producing province
and a major beef exporter to the United States, tested positive on Friday
for brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease,
in a test conducted after it was slaughtered last winter, government officials
- "The actual test was taken Jan. 31 from a cow in
Fairview, Alberta," an official with the Canadian Beef Export Federation
said. "It's just one isolated case of an 8-year-old cow."
- But the report sent a major chill through the continent's
economy, triggering a bans on Canadian beef and sparking a sell-off in
cattle futures and food-related stocks such as hamburger giant McDonald's
Corp. The currency in Canada, the world's third-largest beef exporter,
also fell after the news but later rebounded.
- The animal was not processed and its northern Alberta
herd of 150 animals will be slaughtered, as will any other found to be
affected, Canadian Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief told a nationally
televised news conference in the Alberta capital of Edmonton. Vanclief
said he did not know the cow's origin.
- "The investigation to date indicates the animal
in question was sent to a rendering plant after slaughter. I want to stress
that the animal did not go into the food chain," he said.
- Other herds had yet to be quarantined. "We've only
been investigating this for about 24 hours," a government scientist
- The United States quickly slapped a temporary ban on
imports of Canadian cattle, sheep and goats as well as meat and other products.
But the U.S. Agriculture Department said the threat of transmitting the
disease to animals in the United States was very low and it planned no
- Japan and South Korea, the third and fourth largest markets
for Canada's beef exports, issued similar importation bans, with South
Korea also banning the importation of Canadian dairy products.
- Canada's only other case of mad cow disease was in 1993,
but the animal was imported from Britain, where the disease led to the
slaughter of 3.7 million cattle and a U.S. ban on British imports. Its
carcass was destroyed, as was its herd.
- The new case is a major blow to Alberta, where ranching
is as ingrained in the culture as it is in Texas. About 5.5 million cattle
dot the landscape, outnumbering people by almost 2.5 million.
- The western province accounts for nearly 60 percent of
Canada's beef production, providing C$3.8 billion ($2.8 billion) in annual
farm cash receipts.
- In 2002, Alberta shipped more than half a million live
cattle to the United States, even as ranchers faced financial crisis as
a drought made hay scarce.
- STOCKS, FUTURES, CURRENCY TUMBLE
- On Wall Street, shares of Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest
U.S. beef processor, fell 5 percent on the news and McDonald's sank nearly
7 percent, making the stock the biggest loser in Dow Jones industrial average
- U.S. cattle futures tumbled their allowable daily limit
on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
- The Canadian dollar, which has been soaring in recent
weeks, skidded on the mad cow report before regaining lost ground.
- "It still remains to be seen how serious it is but
the news is not good for Canada, without a doubt," said a currency
trader at a major Canadian bank. "We're trading off the headlines."
- In April, Canada's economy was hit by fears over flu-like
severe acute respiratory syndrome, especially in Toronto, where trade and
tourism sputtered. Canada recently declared victory in the battle against
SARS, but not before the affliction killed 24 people in the Toronto area.
- Some experts believe mad cow disease may have been spread
by cows in Britain who were fed the remains of sheep contaminated with
scrapie. Other scientists say the disease arose from a mutation in a cow
in the 1970s.
- More than 80 people in Britain and Europe have died from
the human variation of mad cow, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- (With reporting by Gilbert Le Gras, David Ljunggren,
Amran Abocar, Brad Dorfman, Randy Fabi, Richard Cowan)