LONDON – Ireland, Europe’s second-largest beef exporter, found a suspected case of mad cow disease in a dairy cow in County Louth.
Tests are being taken to confirm whether the 5-year-old animal had mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, according to a statement from the country’s Agriculture Department. Results should be available in a week. If confirmed, it would be the first case in Ireland since 2013.
The cow didn’t enter the food supply and was discovered through a surveillance program testing animals that die on farms, according to the statement. Researchers will also examine other animals related to the infected cow.
“From an international trade point of view, it’s not particularly positive,” John Lancaster, a dairy analyst at INTL FCStone in Dublin, said by phone. “We export 90 percent of our beef here, so the export markets are of critical importance.”
Ireland has stepped up control measures for mad cow disease since the 1990s, with the number of cases falling from more than 300 in 2002 to zero last year, according to the Agriculture Department. The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health last month lowered Ireland’s risk status for the disease to “negligible” from “controlled,” saying the improved ranking would facilitate trade.
The U.S. lifted a 15-year ban on Irish beef earlier this year. China, the world’s third-biggest beef consumer, also relaxed import restrictions, the Irish Food Board said in February.
More than 185,000 BSE cases in cattle were confirmed in the European Union during the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Cases were also found in U.S. herds in 2003, prompting countries including Japan and South Korea to halt imports. The most-recent U.S. case was in 2012. Other cases have been reported this year in Canada and Norway, according to the animal health organization, known by its French acronym OIE.
BSE is a transmissible brain disease that is fatal for cattle. Eating meat from BSE-infected animals has been tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable human illness that destroys brain tissue.
Ireland ranked behind the Netherlands as the EU’s top beef exporter last year, including fresh and frozen supplies shipped within the bloc and externally, according to Eurostat, the bloc’s statistics office.