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State Ready to Ride Herd on Canadian Cows

May 23, 2003|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

Beware all cows from Canada: We know where you live.

California agriculture officials say they are keeping tabs on all immigrant cattle from the Canadian province of Alberta, where an 8-year-old bovine afflicted with "mad cow" disease is roiling the local ranching industry.

So far, though, ranchers and regulators here are unfazed.

That's largely because so few Canadian cattle have entered California, where about 5 million head roam. Since January 2002, the state Department of Food and Agriculture reports, 1.1 million cattle have crossed the border. Of those, only 7,000 were from Canada, only 84 hailed from Alberta, and only 47 were Alberta beef cattle.

Mad cow disease is the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Eating mad-cow-contaminated beef can cause a fatal, brain-degenerating illness in humans. It has affected 129 people, mostly in Europe.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 31, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
"Mad cow" disease -- Recent articles in Section A and the Business section have stated that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans is caused by eating products contaminated with the agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease. Although scientists believe that there is strong evidence that eating such products can cause a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the link is not definitively established.

In California, "we feel our food supply is safe," Agriculture Department spokesman Steve Lyle said Thursday.

Ben Higgins, executive vice president of the California Cattlemen's Assn., agreed. Still, he said an initial concern was "the short-term psychological effect on the cattle markets."

Lyle stressed that if the situation in Alberta were to worsen, officials could spring into action; Canadian cows in California could run, but they couldn't hide.

"We could find them," Lyle said, noting that the department would use branding marks and other means to track the cows.

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