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Judge allows class action over BSE

A Canadian judge has allowed the first class action lawsuit by cattle farmers seeking billions of dollars in damages against its Federal Government over its alleged mishandling of the mad cow disease scandal.

The class action lawsuit affects some 20,000 Quebec livestock breeders, but the decision would have a "major impact" on the rest of Canada and could lead to more than 100,000 farmers joining in the lawsuit.

Donald Berneche, the farmer at the source of the lawsuit, charges the Canadian Government and companies who make feed for Australia's Ridley with "negligence" in triggering Canada's mad cow scandal in 2003.

The first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) broke in Canada's Alberta province in May 2003, prompting a freeze on Canada's beef exports by 30 countries until 2005.

Billions of damage
Statistics Canada calculated that Canadian cattle producers had lost more than CAN$9 billion (US$10bn) since the crisis began.

According to documents filed in Quebec Court, government officials jeopardised the safety of the food supply in failing to inform the public that they had allowed British cattle with BSE to enter the human and animal food chain in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the country's 10th case of mad cow disease since 2003 at the beginning of May in a dairy cow in westernmost British Colombia province.

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