The NCFAD based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the fourth worldwide to get the designation. The lab is part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It also won a reference designation for avian influenza from the OIE.
Canada has increased tracking of BSE over the past few years, after reporting seven cases of the disease since May 2003.
Paul Kitching, director of the NACFAD told labtechonologist.com: "It's an official recognition of our hard work. We already are the reference centre for Canada for BSE diagnostic. With the OIE designation we become a reference centre of expertise in BSE research for North America."
Mr Kitching added that the designation meant the Winnipeg lab could develop new diagnosis and control methods, and would provide scientific and technical training for other OIE member countries.
Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Chuck Strahl congratulated the NCFAD. "This recognition by a well-respected international organisation highlights the scientific expertise that has been brought together in Winnipeg to protect Canadian agriculture and Canadians," he said.
The designation was conferred during the OIE's recent annual general session, and awarded two scientists at the lab as experts. Dr. John Pasick, head of the classical swine fever and avian diseases unit, has been designated by the OIE as the lab's expert for avian influenza, and Dr. Stefanie Czub, head of pathology, has been designated as the expert for BSE, human form of mad cow disease.
A lab designated as a reference laboratory by the OIE functions as a centre of expertise and standardisation for a particular disease or topic and coordinates scientific and technical research, in collaboration with other labs.