by JIM ALGIE
Belarus, Taiwan and Peru have joined two other countries in imposing new trade restrictions on Canadian beef since Feb. 12 when Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians confirmed Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in an Alberta cow.
When discovered, the affected animal lived on a farm in the municipality of Spruce Grove near Edmonton. Agency investigators later traced the animal to its birth farm, also in northern Alberta, using on-farm records and an ear tattoo.
They have since confirmed the cow was born March 2009, two years after an enhanced ban on the use of animal proteins in feed designed to prevent spread of the fatal neurological disease. Because of the ban on animal proteins in feed and other surveillance measures, Canada has been recognized as a “controlled risk” nation for BSE under international health of animals’ rules.
The current case was Canada’s first in four years and the 19th case since BSE became reportable in 1990 under domestic health of animals regulations.
Calls made this morning to the office of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association have not yet been returned.
UPDATE FEB. 25 2015 11:52 a.m.: In response to questions from NDP members in the House of Commons, Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz insisted government officials are working to minimize trade disruption from BSE.
“CFIA and the Market Access Secretariat continue to engage our trading partners to ensure that markets stay open and to re-open markets to Canadian beef as quickly as possible,” Ritz told the House under questioning from NDP Agriculture Critic Malcolm Allen (Welland), Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) and Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinongé).
He reiterated earlier remarks that existing trade measures are temporary and have occurred in markets which “while important, represent a small percentage, some three per cent, of our overall trade.”
Allen said the minister is minimizing the problem.
“Beef boycotts have spread to five countries now, with exports worth more than $70 million. I do not think that is chump change. Maybe the minister does,” Allen said.
Davies accused the government of failing to “effectively protect out beef exports.” Both Ritz and Health Minister Rona Ambrose defended the government against accusations it has cut Canadian Food Inspection Agency funding.
“We brought forward $200 million more in Budget 2014 to enhance our BSE surveillance, and the opposition voted against that,” Ritz said.
“We stand firmly with our beef industry; the opposition does not,” the agriculture minister said. END OF UPDATE
Federal government and the national cattle association representatives have consistently played down potential impact from the case on international trade in Canadian cattle or related products.
Speaking in Winnipeg on Monday, Ritz said the five countries that have announced limits on beef trade with Canada since Feb. 12 represent less than 3.5 per cent of beef export sales. A Winnipeg Free Press report, Tuesday, quotes Ritz to say officials in major export markets such as Japan, Mexico and the United States have not given any indication they intend to ban Canadian beef products.
A timeline published on the Agency’s website shows South Korea was first to suspend imports of Canadian beef, Feb. 13. Indonesia imposed temporary restrictions on non-edible by-products, Feb. 18. Peru and Belarus both imposed temporary restrictions, Feb. 20. Taiwan followed a day later.
Canada’s continuing investigation is to focus on feed supplied to the infected animal during its first year of life, the Agency’s posted question and answer sheet says. Investigators will “trace out all animals of equivalent risk, such as the animals that were exposed to the same feed as the animal with BSE,” the document says.
Equivalent risk animals are to be destroyed. Even so, the Agency statement also says of previous investigations that no additional animals have been identified through similar procedures. BF