The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said that agricultural inspectors are currently investigating a possible case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

Mark van Dusen, CFIA spokesman, told Canadian reporters: "We have an ongoing testing program for BSE and that means from time to time we undertake confirmatory tests when we come up with a suspicious sample."

The US had closed its boarders to Canadian beef when BSE was discovered in a cow in Alberta in 2003, a measure which cost the Canadian beef industry in excess of CDN$7bn. The two-year ban was lifted in July when the US again permitted the import of young cattle from Canada.

Although the CFIA did not disclose the age of the cow in question, it has been confirmed that it is older then 30-months. 

Van Dusen said that inspectors will know within 48-hours if the animal was infected. There is no indication that any part of the animal has entered the food chain, he said.