18 years after the initial outbreak, Canada achieved the lowest risk status for bovine spongiform encephalopathy
By Jackie Clark
Last week Canada was officially designated a negligible risk status for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The Canadian Cattleman Association (CCA) has been working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) toward this designation since 2003, according to a May 27 statement from CFIA.
“The recommendation by the OIE’s Scientific Commission to grant Canada negligible risk status for BSE is a historic closing of the BSE era for Canada which brought unprecedent hardship to our industry in the early 2000’s,” said Bob Lowe, CCA president, in a May 27 release.
The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) are relieved at the news, a May 27 statement from the organization said.
Moving to negligible risk from the previous status of controlled risk required “surveillance and ongoing testing of animals at slaughterhouses,” Jack Chaffe, vice president of BFO, told Farms.com.
“To achieve negligible risk, a country must demonstrate the last case of classical BSE was born more than 11 years ago and effective control measures and surveillance systems are in place. Canada’s last case was born in 2009,” said the CCA statement. “CCA will now focus on the removal of the remaining BSE era market access restrictions as well as the alignment of packing house requirements with international recommendations. The additional requirements placed on Canada’s processing sector because of BSE created a significant economic disadvantage in comparison with others in the international marketplace.”
Now, Canadian cattle farmers are on more even footing with producers in the United States. An advantage “for Ontario is the ability to move more fed cattle, live cattle, into the United States for processing because of the lack of processing capacity here,” explained Chaffe.
“Before the change, when fed cattle did go into the states to be processed, they had to be segregated and they couldn’t be mixed with the American cattle. So, a lot of the packers didn’t want to be bothered buying Canadian cattle,” he added.
This status change allows industry officials to move forward with logistics for expansion of exports, Chaffe said. Exporting to South Korea is one example.
The Canadian beef industry can also now look into changes surrounding handling of specific risk material (SRM).
“Up until this status change was made, any of the cattle over 30 months of age … the SRM, the spinal column and certain parts of the animal, had to be removed,” Chaffe explained. “So, now that the status change has been made, we can apply to have that change made as well.”
CFIA and cattle organizations will again need to apply for that change through OIE.
“It’ll put us more in line with the Americans. On certain carcasses there could be upwards of $160 worth of material that has to be removed.”