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From: TSS (
Subject: Lax enforcement of 1997 feed ban now haunting Canada's beef industry
Date: January 17, 2005 at 6:20 pm PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Lax enforcement of 1997 feed ban now haunting Canada's beef industry
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 20:10:39 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Lax enforcement of 1997 feed ban now haunting Canada's beef industry

Jim Macdonald
Canadian Press

Monday, January 17, 2005

EDMONTON (CP) - A third confirmed case of mad cow disease in Alberta has
left agriculture officials questioning the lax enforcement of a 1997
feed ban that was aimed at preventing an outbreak of BSE.

The feed ban outlawed the practice of feeding cattle the high-risk
remains of other cattle, which is now believed to be a primary cause of
BSE in Canada and around the world.

But Canada did not immediately cut off the flow of this feed, choosing
instead to ban further production while allowing continued shipments of
remaining supplies. Ranchers and even some government officials concede
this was a mistake.

"With the situation we're dealing with now, it may well have been there
was a bit of old inventory some places," said Erik Butters, a rancher
who is also vice-chairman of Alberta Beef Producers. "In hindsight, a
recall may have been a good idea."

Enforcement of the feed ban has become a key issue because the Alberta
cow confirmed this week to have BSE was born in 1998 after the feed ban
was put in place.

An official with the watchdog agency for Canada's food supply says
Canada was simply following what other countries were doing in 1997.
There was no evidence that the cattle feed supply was contaminated.

"Recalling and destroying millions of tonnes of (feed) would have been a
very difficult decision to justify in light of what was known at the
time," said Dr. Darcy Undseth, a veterinary program specialist with the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Calgary.

Undseth also said scientists believed in 1997 that it would take a
fairly large dose of contaminated feed to infect a cow with BSE.

But Dr. Gerald Ollis, Alberta's chief veterinarian, says further
research has proven that a microscopic amount of contaminated feed can
lead to mad cow disease.

"Over the last five years, science in Europe has shown that the
infective dose for BSE is as little as one-thousandth of a gram of
infected brain tissue," Ollis said Thursday in an interview.

Residual amounts of infected feed could have remained in feed bins or
even in equipment used to transfer feed, such as augers, he said.

"There's been evidence in other countries in Europe where you implement
the feed ban, but keep having cases of BSE," said Ollis. "It's a
cross-contamination issue where the new feed has picked up a tiny amount
of (BSE) as it's been augered through your feed-handling system."

The latest case of mad cow on a ranch in central Alberta has led U.S.
agriculture officials to send a team of experts to Canada to begin a new
examination of BSE-related issues, including the safety of the feed supply.

Ranchers and the beef industry are now expressing concerns about how
this latest case will affect U.S. plans to reopen the border to most
live cattle in March.

"We do not have a food safety issue here," said Butters. "But we're into
the realm of American politics and there's going to be a congressional
review of the rule and that's the part that makes us a bit nervous."

Butters stressed the public is not at risk from eating beef because the
parts of cattle that can be contaminated, including spines and brains,
are now removed so they don't enter the human food supply.

"We have a feed safety issue, not a food safety issue."

The U.S. trade ban on Canadian cattle has been in place since May 2003
when the first case of BSE was confirmed in an Alberta cow. The impact
of losing its largest beef customer has crushed Canada's beef industry.

The cost to ranchers, packers and related industries now totals roughly
$5 billion and the cost to taxpayers is at least $2.5 billion for
various aid programs.

But the human costs are also severe, with family-owned ranches going
broke, feedlots being seized by bankers and even families breaking apart
over financial stress.

Canada is now proposing tighter feed restrictions because some cattle
remains such as blood, milk and gelatin are still allowed in the
production of cattle feed.

The new rule would also ban high-risk materials from being used in any
animal feed or even in fertilizers.

"To me, that is a natural progression of the feed ban that was
implemented in August of 1997," said Ollis.

"Now that we've detected BSE in Canada, it only makes sense to extend
that ban to the point where you remove specified risk materials
completely from all animal feeds."

© The Canadian Press 2005


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