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BSE Surveillance: Maintaining confidence in Canadian beef

This web page provides Canadian cattle producers with summarized information about the national bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance program and its benefits to the cattle industry.

The BSE surveillance program

This program has helped demonstrate the effectiveness of Canada's BSE control measures, as evidenced by the marked decline of new cases of classical BSE in the national cattle herd over the years. This, in turn, supports Canada's market access of bovine products.

BSE surveillance is a shared responsibility. Cattle producers, veterinarians and governments all have a role to play.

Benefits to cattle producers

The information collected through the BSE surveillance program helps Canada to secure and maintain international market access for our top-quality cattle and beef products.

The program also helps maintain consumer confidence in Canadian beef.

Reimbursement available

When an eligible sample is submitted for testing, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pays the producer $75 to help cover eventual carcass disposal costs.

Additionally, the CFIA will directly pay the veterinarian up to $100 for veterinary services.

Testing criteria

The BSE surveillance program targets animals most at risk for the disease, which are:

  • cattle over the age of 30 months that are dead, down, dying or diseased
  • cattle over the age of 24 months exhibiting at least 3 of the following clinical signs compatible with BSE, including:
    • nervous, aggressive or apprehensive behaviour
    • abnormal head carriage and/or abnormal posture
    • a lack of co-ordination or difficulty in turning or rising from a lying position
    • poor body condition and/or a decrease in milk production
    • hesitation at doors, gates or barriers
    • increased sensitivity to touch, sounds or sight stimuli
    • muscle tremors or trembling

BSE surveillance levels

To maintain an ongoing BSE surveillance program, the CFIA continues to work collaboratively with cattle industry stakeholders, veterinarians and key government authorities.

The participation of both deadstock collection operators and cattle producers  has been essential in the BSE surveillance program and will continue to play an important role in maintaining domestic and international consumer confidence in Canadian beef products.

Maintaining our surveillance levels will help us to keep our status as a country with a "negligible BSE risk status", as recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH; founded as Office International des Épizooties (OIE)). This status clearly acknowledges the effectiveness of Canada's BSE surveillance and risk-mitigation measures, and helps in securing international market access for our beef and cattle.

Food safety and animal health protection from BSE

BSE surveillance is not a food safety measure. The food supply is protected through the removal of specified risk material (SRM) –which are the tissues that may harbour the BSE agent– from all cattle slaughtered for human consumption.

The removal of SRM from the food supply has been a legal requirement in Canada since 2003.

SRM is also banned from all animal feed, pet food and fertilizer produced in Canada. This measure helps to protect the animal feed supply, and is critical in our efforts to eliminate BSE from the national herd.

Having an animal tested

If you have an animal that meets any of the testing criteria, call your veterinarian or the nearest CFIA office.

Your veterinarian or a CFIA inspector will come to your farm to assess the animal and, if appropriate, collect a brain tissue sample from the animal for testing. They will also discuss the reimbursement process with you.

You will be responsible for maintaining control of the animal's carcass until testing is complete.

For more information

Visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website or contact your local CFIA office.