EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada,
July 18, 2003 (ENS): Agriculture and Agri-food Minister
Lyle Vanclief and Health Minister Anne McLellan today announced
a new measure to enhance food safety controls for bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. The discovery
of a single cow infected with the fatal disease on an Alberta farm
in May, has crippled the Canadian beef industry and halted all sales
of Canadian beef to the United States.
The Canadian beef industry usually sells C$30 billion worth of
beef to the United States every year. Due to the U.S. ban on import
of Canadian beef, production is down more than 50 percent in Canada.
This new measure requires that specified risk materials, brain
and spinal cord tissue, be removed at slaughter from carcasses of
cattle older than 30 months. These tissues in BSE infected cattle
contain the agent that may transmit the disease. Scientific research
has shown that these tissues, in cattle younger than 30 months,
do not contain the infective agent.
The Government of Canada intends to enact regulations by July 24
that will include a full definition of specified risk material.
"Today's announcement reflects the government of Canada's
clear commitment to the health and safety of Canadians," said
McLellan. "Canada's food supply is among the safest in the
world and this measure will further protect human health."
"We are taking steps to implement this important measure as
soon as possible," said Vanclief. "By removing specified
risk material at slaughter we are making a very safe system even
safer. It also further demonstrates to our trading partners that
Canada remains a most reliable and responsible supplier of safe
beef and beef products."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman today stopped short of lifting
the ban on importation of Canadian beef. "We appreciate that
Canada is moving quickly to address these issues," she said.
"We commend the Canadian government for its thorough investigation
of the situation as well as its willingness to have an international
team of experts review the progress."
“The United States continues to have a very strong commitment
to ensuring that the U.S. beef supply is safe. We look forward to
the continued coordination among the United States, Canada and our
other trading partners to address the various and complex issues
regarding the single BSE case,” Veneman said.
The Canadian ministers said the new policy takes into account current
science and the recommendations of the international team that examined
the investigation into Canada's case of BSE.
While BSE is a cattle disease, the human disease called variant
Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD) has been associated with the consumption
of products derived from BSE infected cattle.
Cattle tissues identified as specified risk materials are not generally
consumed as food. However, during processing, these tissues could
be unintentionally included in meat products destined for human
The international team's report, released June 26, praised the
thoroughness and quality of the work done by the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency. As a precautionary measure, the team recommended that Canada
eliminate specified risk materials from products destined for consumption.
Specified risk materials are tissues that, in BSE-infected cattle,
contain the agent that may transmit the disease. In diseased animals,
the infective agent is concentrated in certain tissues.
The measures announced today will require the removal of such materials
as the brain, and spinal cord from carcasses of cattle older than
30 months. Scientific research has shown that these tissues, in
cattle younger than 30 months, do not contain the infective agent.
A portion of the small intestine will be removed from carcasses
of all cattle.
The government of Canada will work closely with provincial and
territorial governments and industry to ensure nationwide implementation
Both ministers said consultations with the provinces, territories,
industry, and trading partners will continue on other measures,
such as surveillance and reviewing controls on animal feed, and
that approaches to these additional measures will be decided upon
in the near future.
The Canadian Cattlemen's Association said in Calgary that it welcomes
the new measures to enhance Canada's "already stringent food
safety precautions" related to BSE.
"While these new measures will add some cost to the production
of beef in Canada, we recognize that the diagnosis of BSE in a single
cow in Canada puts us in a new situation where measures such as
these may be necessary to satisfy our customers," the cattlemen
said. "The North American beef industry is an integrated industry
and we trust that our trading partners within North America are
being consulted and will recognize the value to their industries
of adopting similar measures."
"Canadian beef cattle producers are grateful for and overwhelmed
by the outpouring of support we have received from our fellow Canadians,"
the cattlemen said. "Our efforts remain focused on re-opening
our export markets' borders to safe, wholesome and nutritious Canadian
In a move aimed at supporting the Canadian beef industry, Costco
Wholesale today announced the arrival of medium ground beef in all
of its Quebec locations priced to sell at $1 a pound ($2.20 per
kilogram) while quantities last.
Canada's beef industry has been suffering from the current U.S.
ban on the importation of Canadian beef. "We feel that we must
do something to support Canadian beef producers and move quality
Canadian meat through the retail system," said Janet Shanks,
vice-president of fresh foods from Costco's Canadian head office
In a gesture of support for the Canadian beef industry, A&W
Food Services of Canada Ltd. today announced that the company is
moving to buy 100 per cent Canadian beef to supply its 619 restaurants
"Over recent weeks we have been working hard to source sufficient
lean beef in Canada to meet our total needs, and we are delighted
that we can now move to converting to 100 percent Canadian beef,"
said Trish Sahlstrom, A&W's vice president of purchasing and
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