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Canada earns top marks for veterinary standards, still room for improvement

Canada earns top marks for veterinary standards, still room for improvement

OTTAWA - A new report card on animal health says Canada should beef up its quarantine measures and make sure there is no politicking in the food safety system.

The World Organization for Animal Health has just published its assessment of Canada's veterinary standards, focusing on farm animal welfare and disease control. Canada scored top marks overall, meeting the highest level of standard in 35 areas out of 45.

But the report card says there's some room for improvement if Canada wants to make its system air tight and criticism-proof.

The organization says Canada currently has no policy for "disease-free zoning" or compartmentalizing of land animals, as defined by the body, and that in a country as big as Canada with high value exports, there's a trade risk posed by the possibility of foreign animal disease.

While there is a zoning program in place for disease outbreaks, the organization recommends Canada develop a permanent program to help mitigate potential risks.

Jaspinder Komal, Canada's Chief Veterinary Officer, said Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) technical staff have already started working with industry partners to see how they can develop more extensive zoning measures.

The report also recommends measures to reduce "non-scientific" considerations that compromise policy decisions and to maintain independence, saying sometimes decision making is tainted by strong industry lobby groups.

But Komal insists the CFIA is an arm's-length organization that has adequate authority to make independent decisions and that there's no interference.

"There may be perceptions because different lobby groups will try and say, 'This is how we want things done,' but we continue to work on evidence-based, science-based processes," he said.

The assessment also found that while there are a number of disease surveillance programs in place, there is no central information system, which the international animal health organization said would improve efficiency. It also identified a need for a program that traces animals.

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