by SUSAN MANN
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a “mea culpa” to the Canadian Pork Council following incidents in 2015 when inspectors mistakenly turned away pigs missing ear tags from processing plants.
In October 2015 CFIA inspectors in both Nova Scotia and Ontario refused to allow the delivery of pigs that didn’t have the ear tag identification. In Ontario, the processor where this occurred is a very small facility processing possibly 20 pigs a week, said Jeff Clark, PigTrace Canada general manager.
PigTrace administers the country’s pig traceability system on behalf of the council. Under the system, those who handle pigs are required to identify, record and report the movements of animals in their care.
Compliance, which is enforced by the federal agency, has been mandatory since July 2014.
However, pigs lacking identification cannot be turned away at abattoirs — as cattle and sheep are under similar traceability programs — because of biosecurity risks, Clark said.
Plants could be a reservoir for infectious diseases which the returned animals could pass on to others in an operation, he explained.
“It defeats the whole purpose of the traceability program,” he said.
Instead, producers can face fines and prosecution for non-compliance.
Clark, who shepherded the council’s case through the CFIA’s complaints and appeals office, said “it was just confusion on the part of the inspectors.”
The pork council filed the complaint at the end of October/early November.
Clark said the investigation included interviews he had with a CFIA case file worker and he had to submit supporting evidence and documents. “They did an internal review, which probably took about a month.”
The CFIA’s decision handed down by letter “confirms CFIA inspectors should not be doing that (turning away unidentified pigs), and that they (the inspectors) have been notified,” Clark noted.
CFIA spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said by email she is unable to release details about the case “due to privacy reasons.”
However, she noted “written documentation on livestock traceability requirements have been developed and circulated to regulated parties to ensure consistent implementation of the policy.” Furthermore, “inspectors have been provided with training to provide a consistent understanding of requirements.”
According to the Canadian Pork Council’s annual report, PigTrace now has about 9,771 producers registered across Canada. Registrations with PigTrace have continued to increase and since Aug. 1, 2014 there has been a 24 per cent increase, mostly due to hobby farms and backyard producers.
“Particularly notable is the significant growth in Ontario with over 900 new registrations between August 2014 and November 2015,” the annual report said.
Pig movement numbers were also reported. From July 1, 2014 to October 19, 2015 there were 705,549 movements reported or 10,690 a week or 1,527 a day from a total of 5,780 premises. Since July 2014, more than 1.8 million ear tags have been sold. BF