The Canadian government took a further step towards reducing the risk of Canadians becoming exposed to the agent that may transmit BSE with new rules that prevent specified risk material (SRM) from entering the human food supply.
The move follows an announcement last week from health minister Anne McLellan and agriculture and agri-food minister Lyle Vanclief that new regulations were on the cards to tighten bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) controls.
McLellan said at the time: "Today's announcement reflects the Government of Canada's clear commitment to the health and safety of Canadians," said Minister McLellan. "Canada's food supply is among the safest in the world and this measure will further protect human health." Scientists believe that in BSE-infected cattle, the infective agent is concentrated in tissues such as the brain and spinal cord.
Studies have indicated a potential link between the consumption of certain tissues containing abnormal prion proteins from infected cattle and the incidence of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human equivalent of BSE.
The new rules - due to come into force at the end of August - establish a definition for SRM and prohibit the sale or import for sale of food products containing SRM under the Food and Drug Regulations from countries that are not BSE-free.
SRM are defined as the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia (nerves attached to the brain), eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (nerves attached to the spinal cord) of cattle aged 30 months or older.
North American farmers were shaken at the end of May when the Canadian government confirmed that a cow slaughtered in January from an Alberta farm had tested positive for BSE.