OTTAWA -- A US former health inspector currently in Canada claims the US Department of Agriculture covered up cases of mad cow disease in American cattle herds in the late 1990s.
The claim by Lester Friedlander, a former USDA inspector fired in 1995, came as the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) aired video Wednesday of a cow stricken by the deadly illness that they say belonged to a US herd and was taken in 1997.
Cows at a US ranch. A US former health inspector currently in Canada claims the US Department of Agriculture covered up cases of mad cow disease in American cattle herds in the late 1990s. (AFP/Robyn Beck)
US officials have denied all the charges.
Three cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) have been discovered in Canada since 2003, prompting the United States, Japan and a number of other nations to ban or restrict imports of Canadian beef products and cattle.
The scare cost Canadian beef farmers billions of dollars.
Canada in turn banned certain meats and livestock from the United States in December 2003 following the discovery of a US case of mad cow disease.
Friedlander testified in Parliament on Tuesday that USDA veterinarians sent samples of brain tissue of cattle suspected of being stricken with mad cow disease to private laboratories.
He claims the labs confirmed the illness, but that USDA officials ran their own tests on the same samples and said they came back negative.
Friedlander said he was fired while employed as a chief inspector at a meat packing plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for criticizing what he describes as the USDA's "unsafe practices."
He said he was willing to take a lie detector test to help confirm his testimony.
On Monday, Canadian cattle ranchers filed a class action lawsuit against Canadian authorities worth seven billion dollars (5.74 billion US dollars) charging negligence and incompetence in controlling the mad cow outbreak.
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