POP: Testing of Animals

POP: Yes
Res #: POP 5-05A
Number: 5
Year: 2005
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Point of Privilege Resolution No. 5-05A

WHEREAS, our major trading partner (the USA) is stimulated by money and market shares; and

WHEREAS, if Japan and Korea were to open their borders to Canadian Beef, the US would reopen their border for our beef to prevent the loss of market shares; and

WHEREAS, Japan has indicated they will accept the products from packing plants where 100% of slaughtered animals are tested; and

WHEREAS, there is willingness of some packing plants to provide for the testing of animals at a cost of $20/head to the producer; and

WHEREAS, access to the Japanese market will raise the price per head by $200 or more;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, we request the Federal Government to allow packing plants to provide a hundred percent testing of slaughtered animals in order to access such markets as Japan.

Response from Honourable Andy Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:

With regard to the testing of animals, food safety concerns are addressed by removing tissues associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infectivity – the specified risk material (SRM). Amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations and the Food and Drug Regulations in 2003 require that SRM, such as the brain and spinal cord and a portion of the small intestine, be removed from cattle of specified ages that are slaughtered for human consumption. This prevents tissue capable of harbouring the BSE agent from entering the food system. Because the tests used to detect BSE are not proven to be able to find the disease in its early stages, the removal of any material capable of harbouring the BSE agent, if it is present, is the most effective public health safeguard. Further, most animals slaughtered in Canada are 18 to 24 months of age – an age at which BSE is not normally present in cattle.

Animal health concerns are addressed by banning the feeding of high-risk materials to susceptible species. In 1997, the CFIA went beyond the recommendations proposed by the World Health Organization and banned the feeding of most protein that originated from mammals, except that derived from swine, equines, milk and blood, to ruminant animal species (cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, etc.). Although producers cannot use the prohibited products as ingredients in ruminant feeds, these materials can be safely ingested by non-ruminant animals, such as poultry and swine, because these species have not been demonstrated to be susceptible to BSE. On July 9, 2004, the Government of Canada announced that it would introduce a regulatory proposal to require the removal and redirection of SRM and dead and downer cattle from all animal feed, including pet food.

The draft regulations were pre-published in the Canadian Gazette, Part I, on December 11, 2004, and the CFIA is reviewing the input received during the comment period, which closed on February 24, 2005. The surveillance approach adopted in Canada strives to provide the most effective means of detecting BSE in the cattle population at all levels of the production system, based on the recommendations of the Office international des epizooties (World Organization for Animal Health), referred to as OIE. The CFIA is committed to continuous review and adjustments to the surveillance program as new information is presented.

Surveillance testing focuses on those high-risk animals most likely to be affected by the disease. These are defined as cattle over 30 months of age, from the following groups: displaying clinical signs of neurological disease compatible with BSE; found dead on farm; non-ambulatory (downers); presented for emergency slaughter; unhealthy at the time of ante-mortem inspection; and a percentage of healthy animals at slaughter of specified age or geographic grouping.

This is consistent with current international guidelines, and it reflects the collective experience of the European Union. The CFIA had set a goal of testing at least 8,000 animals in 2004 and then increasing testing to 30,000 in 2005. This figure will be under continual review as new international standards are developed and as new science emerges. I am pleased to note that the CFIA surpassed its target for 2004 by testing 23,550 samples, and it has tested more than 22,000 samples in 2005. The international panels that reviews the BSE policies of both Canada and the U.S. do not recommend BSE testing for all cattle slaughtered.

Nonetheless, many BSE-affected countries have implemented this measure, either in whole or in part, to maintain consumer confidence. However, more recently, international recommendations have emphasized the removal of SRM as the most important measure protecting public health. Accordingly, those countries that had previously implemented large-scale testing of slaughter cattle are now examining strategies to move away from this approach.