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Canada expands Mad Cow safeguards, new regulations enacted
By Peter Szafranski
(SP) Toronto – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) expanded BSE-related (Mad Cow disease) animal feed safeguards this week by banning the use of cattle brains, spinal cords, and certain other body parts from all animal feeds, pet foods, and fertilizer.
Chuck Strahl, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture said, “The government of Canada has taken a significant step towards accelerating the elimination of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from Canadian cattle.”
Intent on improving foreign export of Canadian agricultural products, Strahl said, “These new measures will help increase access to foreign markets, and support Canada’s status as a controlled risk country for BSE from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).”
Under the enhanced feed ban, producers can no longer feed any animal products containing specified risk material, or SRM, to livestock and slaughter houses must ensure that it is removed from the feed system. In addition, a permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is required to handle, transport or dispose of cattle carcasses and certain cattle tissues.
This system enables continuous control over at-risk animal parts, so that it does not enter the animal feed system, noted Strahl.
According to Freeman Libby, director of the CFIA’s Feed Ban Task Force, the collective weight of all those materials is estimated at more than 100,000 tons per year in Canada and now they must all be disposed of properly.
The enhanced feed ban was first announced on June 26, 2006. But it took until now before Provincial governments and industry stakeholders were able to provide input into the broadened BSE controls.
Earlier, in May 2007, the World Organization for Animal Health gave the official designation to Canada as a BSE Controlled Risk country following the final determination to eliminate all animal parts from the system. The move puts Canada ahead of the United States USDA actions in that Canadian cattle producers are providing greater safeguards to the public who can now rely on the quality of Canadian beef, poultry and pork no matter if within Canada or throughout the world.
In the United States, Mr. Robert Roos, news editor with the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), criticized the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not following Canada’s efforts to cut all SRM from animal feeds, pet foods, and fertilizer.
Roos noted that while the FDA is studying the new Canadian BSE safeguards it’s moving to slowly in initiating rules.
In October 2005, the FDA proposed banning the brains and spinal cords of older cattle from animal feed and pet food, and the agency has been reviewing comments on the proposal for more than a year.
“There is no estimated time frame on when a final rule will be published,” FDA spokesman Michael Herndon told CIDRAP News Thursday. “The agency is working to develop and issue a final rule as expeditiously as possible.” He said he couldn’t give any explanation for the delay.
After Canada discovered its first BSE case in May 2003, the country banned the use of SRM from cattle older than 30 months in human food. The United States followed suit shortly after the first US case of BSE was found in December 2003. Canada has discovered a total of 10 BSE cases, the last one in May, while the United States has found three, the last one in March 2006.
A CFIA fact sheet says that with the broader feed ban, BSE is expected to be eliminated from Canadian cattle in about 10 years; without the new rules, eradication was expected to take several decades.
To help industry set up the infrastructure for SRM disposal, the Canadian government is providing $80 million for provincial disposal programs, the CFIA said. Most provinces have established such programs, for which they must provide 40% of the funding, with the federal government supplying the rest, according to the release.
But even though the government has agreed to provide financial support, cattlemen on the front lines are having a difficult time in complying as funds have yet to trickle down to operators, noted Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, who the situation “enormously frustrating.”
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that several BSE-related interim rules, including the ban on SRM from human food, have been made permanent. The agency didn’t say whether it intentionally timed the announcement to coincide with the broadening of Canada’s feed ban.
The USDA announced the ban on SRM in the food supply as an interim rule in January 2004, about 3 weeks after the first US BSE case was found. At the same time, the agency posted interim rules banning (1) the use of “downer” cattle – those that can’t walk when presented for slaughter-for food and (2) the use of high-pressure cattle-stunning devices that could drive SRM tissue into meat.
Thursday, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said these rules have been made permanent. “Experience has borne out that these interim steps were correct and should be made permanent,” said Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA under secretary for food safety, in a news release.
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