Belize's agriculture officials have been given high marks for the strict measures they are
taking to ensure that mad cow disease and vesicular stomatitis (a.k.a. foot & mouth
disease) does not enter the country.
Ronald L. Doeing, President of the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA), in an
interview with Reporter, said" I feel confident to know that Dr. Michael DeShield is working
closely with his colleagues at the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) and is very
conscientious in making sure that Belizeans are protected."
Doeing visited Belize for three days last week, before heading to Costa Rica to address a
meeting of Central American agricultural ministers on food and animal inspection safety,
and CFIA's work in this regard.
He said that CFIA developed a module some five years ago to ensure that consumers do
not eat infected food, which has worked well for Canada and is also working well for
"We are very proud at what BAHA has done... and want to compliment Belize for the
organizational changes it has made," he said.
The United Kingdom and several other European countries are battling the Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad Cow" epidemic and Foot and Mouth disease,
which have had severe economic impact for farmers in Europe.
Dr. DeShield told Reporter that the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) poses a more
immediate threat to Belize, particularly since it was recently detected in South America.
He said that Belize has been taking a more proactive approach to ensure that Belizeans
are well protected.
The Belize government has banned all meat and animal food products coming out of
Europe, where both the BSE and FMD has been detected in large numbers.
All importation of animal meat and animal food products into Belize must be authorized by
The mad cow disease is a transmissible, neuro-degenerative, fatal brain disease affecting
cattle. It has a long incubation period of four to five years, but is ultimately fatal for
cattle within weeks to months of its onset.
The disease first caught the attention of scientists in November of 1986 when it was
discovered in cattle. Since then over 180,000 cases have been confirmed in the UK.
Vesicular stomatitis (FMD) poses no serious medical threat to humans but can be
devastating to the livestock industry.
The disease is caused by a virus and can be spread by animals, people, or materials that
bring the virus into physical contact with susceptible animals
Because it's rapid spread and because it's grave economic and clinical consequences, FMD
is dreaded by livestock owners.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has since warned countries
around the world about BSE. It calls for the protection of the human population, as well as
the livestock, feed and meat industries.
Dr. DeShield represented Belize at a CARICOM conference in Georgetown, Guyana last
month, when Belize was congratulated for the actions that it has taken to ensure
consumer safety from BSE and FMD.
A joint memorandum issued by CARICOM countries recommends specific action against the
BSE and FMD: harmonization of strategy within the community to combat the possibilities
of entry of FMD into member states and the development of risk management measures to
minimize the threat to the region.
Belize has already implemented several proposals put forward at the Guyana meeting,
which include: making BSE a notifiable disease, banning of animal meat and animal meat
products, allowing the importation of animal food products only from countries free from
the disease, and providing for the regulation and monitoring of animals.
CARICOM countries have also called for travellers on airplanes and cruise ships to notify
authorities if they have been in relative contact with areas affected by the diseases, thirty
days prior to travel.