Chronic attenuating disease (CWD), a central nervous system infection similar to mad cow disease, affects deer, elk, caribou and vines. The MDC was discovered on a farm in the Laurentians region of Quebec last August, resulting in the killing of 2,789 deer.
Although 11 carcasses declared positive for the disease were destroyed, as were seven others, others were able to enter the food system, including 1,000 young animals that had not been tested, as these were not sensitive enough to detect CWD in animals younger than 12 months, CFIA.
This news surprised some experts, including Neil Cashman, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and an expert on prion protein-transmitted neurodegenerative diseases.
Although no case of transmission of chronic debilitating disease to humans has been documented, this, according to experts, cannot be ruled out.
According to him, the CFIA was "playing with fire" by allowing these meats to be on the market.
He mentions an ongoing study that suggests that CWD can be transmitted to other animals, including macaque monkeys. He also referred to the case of the mad cow disease, which was not initially considered dangerous to humans but was later associated with a rare degenerative brain disease called. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Mr Cashman adds that it is even possible for doctors to not recognize MDC if it affects a person, as it could take a different form.
"With all this knowledge about prion malignancies, their environmental lifespan, resistance to destruction and degradation, potential exposure to CWD needs to be reduced," he said. in a telephone conversation.
The CFIA is defending itself
Health Canada notes that there is no evidence that the disease affects humans, but the ministry still recommends that no meat of infected animals be consumed. It also recommends that hunters take precautions when handling deer, moose, and moose corpses.
In an email, the CFIA indicated that it was in line with the department's direction.
"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada hold that CWD-infected animals and animal products are prohibited from entering the Canadian food supply," the agency wrote.
"Meat that entered the human food chain came from animals that are not known to be infected with CWD."
The email stated that "CWD has no known risk to human health or food safety and that no cases have been reported in which people would be infected with the disease."
CWD was first discovered in Canada in 1996 and has since expanded to parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The deer farm in Laurentians was the first documented case in Quebec.