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21 May 2003
New Zealand authorities today moved to further protect public and animal
health following news that a cow in Canada had tested positive for bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Tim Knox, New Zealand Food Safety Authority Director, said today "In
light of this latest news, we are reviewing the measures that currently apply to
beef products imported from Canada to ensure that public health protection is
"We have today put a hold on any consignments of beef products arriving
from Canada until such time as we have further information regarding the
situation there. Imports of beef and beef products from Canada have occurred
sporadically, but it is not a significant trade."
In addition, MAF's Biosecurity Authority has stopped any importation of live
cattle, llamas and alpacas and other ruminant material from Canada such as serum
and inedible by-products. This is in addition to the already stringent measures
New Zealand has in place to protect our animal populations.
"New Zealand is free of all transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)
of animals, such as BSE. New Zealand has not imported any live cattle from
Canada since 1997. Those cattle that we have imported from Canada are today
being traced and checked," said Carolyn Hini, Acting Director Animal
Dairy products, cattle semen and embryos do not transmit BSE and are not
New Zealand does not allow the importation of meat and bone meal from
ruminants from all countries. New Zealand also has an extensive surveillance
programme in place to confirm our ongoing freedom from BSE and other related
The stringent measures required by New Zealand for imports of beef and beef
products for human consumption were developed in conjunction with the Ministry
of Health (the function has now gone to NZFSA) and the Ministry of Agriculture
"We have full confidence in the competence of the Canadian authorities
to investigate the circumstances of this case of BSE and to move immediately to
take whatever action is required."
"Protecting New Zealand public and animal health is top priority for
both agencies and the measures we have introduced today will provide further
health assurance for New Zealand consumers and our primary production
sector" said Tim Knox.
For more information contact Tim Knox on 021 403990 or Sharon Williams,
Senior Communications Advisor, NZFSA 04 463 2528 or 021 1936405 or
Carolyn Hini, Acting Director Animal Biosecurity, 04 4702780 or 021 888 623
or Philippa White, Communications Advisor, MAF Biosecurity Authority, 027
2231875 or 04 498 9948
The provincial government in Alberta, Canada tested a cow that had been
condemned at slaughter because it was not suitable for human consumption. The
cow was not showing any signs of BSE at the time of slaughter. They notified the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency and preliminary findings of tests could not rule
out BSE. It has since been confirmed that the cow had BSE. The Canadians have
said that no food entered the food chain. Canada is still investigating where
the cow had come from.
The last time a case of BSE was detected in Canada was in 1993. In that case
the cow had been imported from the UK. It died of BSE. The carcass and the herd
it had come from were destroyed. The federal government put additional measures
in place at the time to deal with any risk that Canadian cattle might have been
New Zealand officials were informed early on Wednesday 21 May and has moved
quickly to deal with this.
No beef and very few beef products have been imported from Canada. Customs
data shows that New Zealand has imported approximately 100 tonnes of beef fat
tallow oil and 250 tonnes of shortening, which may contain beef fat, over the
past 18 months. The shortening is used in cooking. Beef fat tallow oil is
normally used for cosmetics, soap, candles and other such non-food products.
Given the very low levels of residual protein that are likely to be present in
these products, the fact that the volumes imported are very small, and the fact
that there are about 15 million cattle in Canada, NZFSA believes that any
possibility of contamination of these products with the BSE agent is negligible.
Over the last seven years 17 Canadian cattle have been imported into New
Zealand. Three import permits have been issued during that time covering the
importation of one animal in 1994, which has since been culled, and 16 cattle in
1999, of which 14 are still alive. These cattle have been ear tagged and were
last inspected in July 2002. They will continue to be monitored as part of MAF's
tracking scheme for imported ruminants outlined in the Biosecurity (Imported
Animals, Embryos and Semen) Regulations 1999. MAF will continue to trace any
possible Canadian imports as far back as 1989. This is twice the length of time
required under international standards set by the World Organisation for Animal
New Zealand has stringent measures in place to protect New Zealanders from
BSE. These measures apply to the importation of beef and beef products for human
consumption. These measures vary depending on the risk and BSE history
associated with the exporting country. They include a ban on feeding ruminant
proteins such as meat and bonemeal to ruminants, removal of risk materials (such
as the spinal cord) at slaughter, surveillance, animal identification and
MAF's Biosecurity Authority has withdrawn import health standards for live
cattle, llamas and alpacas and affected ruminant material such as serum and
inedible by-products. Semen and embryos don't transmit BSE and trade can
continue in these products.
No, but we are reviewing our standards. We have however put a temporary hold
on any consignments of beef products on the way from Canada until we have
New Zealand has developed a transparent and rules based system and we are
applying that process in this instance. We have put a temporary hold on any
consignments of beef products on the way from Canada until we have further
information. This is consistent with the measures applied by the United States.
BSE is one of a group of brain wasting diseases (known as transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs) that occurs in adult cattle. It was was
first identified in Britain in 1986. The disease has an incubation period of 3-5
years. Brain cells develop holes resulting in the loss of control of limbs,
trembling, wide-eyed staring, swaying of the head, and erratic behaviour
including charging, hence the term 'mad cow disease'.
No. New Zealand is internationally recognized as free from BSE. BSE has never
been reported or recorded in New Zealand. Since 1990, the Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry has undertaken active surveillance for scrapie, BSE and
chronic wasting disease in deer.
New Zealand has an extensive testing programme in place for TSEs and tests
more than 3000 brain samples a year.
Where did BSE originate? There are several theories as to the origin of BSE.
A common one is that scrapie jumped the species barrier through feeding meat and
bone meal made from sheep infected with scrapie. The disease was then spread,
through the UK cattle population, by feeding meat and bone meal to cattle from
infected ruminant sources including meal made from cattle infected with BSE. The
other mainstream theory of the origin of BSE is that it arose spontaneously in
cattle, much as sporadic Creutzfeldt Jakob disease is believed to arise in