CFIA destroying herd linked to TB cow in Alberta, brings in more inspectors

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – Canada’s food safety watchdog is warning that more ranches may be quarantined as part of the investigation into a case of bovine tuberculosis found in cow that came from southeastern Alberta.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said only one case of the contagious bacterial disease has been discovered, but 30 ranches in the region remain under quarantine and rules that restrict the movement of cattle.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada’s chief veterinary officer, said that number could change as the agency brings in more investigators to trace the movement of potentially exposed animals over the past five years, and do more on-farm tests.

The investigation involves a significant number of herds and is expected to take months, he said.

“As the disease investigation proceeds, additional premises may need to be quarantined while cattle are tested for bovine TB,” Kochhar said Thursday in a statement.

“Testing, humane destruction and disposal are carried out as required.”

The agency said it has already started to destroy a herd in the area linked to the cow that came from a ranch near Jenner, about 250 kilometres east of Calgary.

Kochhar said the CFIA recognizes the quarantines and investigation are having a significant impact on producers, especially on those who were planning to sell cattle this fall.

“The CFIA will pay compensation to producers as quickly as possible for any animals ordered destroyed,” he said.

Alberta Beef Producers, an association that represents 20,000 producers, has said the CFIA needs to be more transparent with ranchers about the bovine tuberculosis case.

Bovine TB can be transmitted from affected animals to people, causing a condition similar to human tuberculosis, but the CFIA website says the risk to the general population is very low.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported the case of bovine TB to Canada in September after the disease was found in a slaughtered cow from Alberta.

Bovine TB is a reportable disease in Canada and has been subject to a mandatory national eradication program since 1923.

The CFIA said Canada is considered to be officially free of the disease, although isolated cases may occur. The agency said this finding does not affect Canada’s current status.

— By John Cotter in Edmonton