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article imageDespite Mad Cow, Canadian Cattle That Lack ID Tags Still Enter the States

By Carolyn E. Price     Feb 20, 2007 in Health
Cattle ranchers in Washington state go after Canadian cattle ... because of mad cow or because cheap Canadian meat is flooding the market? You decide.
Cattle ranchers in the state of Washington say that hundreds of cows from Canada are getting into the US without having the government-required health papers or ID tags. This month, Canada confirmed its ninth case of mad-cow disease.
Documents that were obtained by the cattle ranchers show correspondence between state officials and American cattle and meat companies that suggest there are problems with many truckloads of cattle that come into this country, almost on a daily basis.
The US Department of Agriculture recently launched an investigation into the Canadian cattle trade based on the documents, according to a top department official.
Many of the documents are saying that cattle arrives in the US without proper ID tags or they had tag numbers that do not match the accompanying health certificates. Overall, the records are basically saying that Washington state officials are having a great deal of difficulty tracking the hundreds of cattle that arrive from Canada each week.
Ranchers and food-safety groups criticize the USDA, saying it has insufficiently monitored the movement of cattle into the U.S. They say the lax regulation could lead to more mad-cow cases in the U.S., undermining consumer confidence in beef.
Mad cow, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a neurological disease that attacks a cow's central nervous system. It is believed that humans can contract variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a disorder that eats away at the brain, by consuming meat from BSE-infected cattle.
The Washington state Veterinarian's Office issued a statement saying it works with the USDA "to reconcile the ear tags on cattle with Canadian brands with the information on the USDA documents".
The Vet's Office is scrutinizing now more than ever, the movement of imported cattle. "Some of the animal identification numbers on the USDA importation documents were transposed or did not match the ear tag, and some animals lost ear tags in transit. These kinds of things can and do occur in the commerce of animals."
Cattle producers say that they asked for the records to find out whether Washington state and the federal government were enforcing the rules that govern Canadian imports. They say that they are are concerned how the impact of lower-priced Canadian imports will affect their own businesses, and the potential spread of diseases from Canadian cattle that don't have proper medical papers.
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