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R-CALF's "Inadequacy" Claims: Part IV PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 27 May 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #25

We Debunk More of R-CALF's Claims:

This is the fourth column on R-CALF's position paper on the Canadian surveillance program..

R-CALF's "Inadequacy of Canada's BSE Surveillance Program"* position paper has more key inaccuracies.

In the paper is the statement, "Canada is the only BSE affected country in the world that has no mandatory BSE testing program."

As we've noted before, R-CALF is no stranger to Clinton-esque hair splitting and definition deformation. We're not sure what they consider "mandatory." But Canada has had a government BSE surveillance program meeting OIE guidelines in effect since 1992. BSE is a reportable disease, requiring any animal exhibiting symptoms to be reported and tested.

Darcy Undseth, a Veterinary Program official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa, confirmed that whether in slaughter plants, dead stock or rendering operations or on farms, over 30-month animals are tested if they fall into any of four categories: found dead of undetermined causes, down, distressed or diseased. The testing and surveillance setup is very similar to the U.S. program.

For additional encouragement for cattlemen and private veterinarians to report on-farm cases, Canada also has a reimbursement program, requiring signed paperwork and yielding reimbursement payments to both producers and veterinarians for carcass disposal.

R-CALF's risk assessment expert, Tony Cox, claims Canada's testing to date indicates that Canada may have a problem comparable to France and Germany. He also said since there is no long- term historical testing data, one cannot determine if the rate of BSE infection in Canada is decreasing.

For one thing, the rate of BSE infection would have been set before the time of the feed ban. After that date the rate of incidence should be zero, not decreasing as Cox implies, as no new animals should be infected. And as Canada's discovered cases have borne out, all of them save one were born before the feed ban, with the one borderline case surmised to having been fed feed held over from a few months previous. So hunting for a decreasing rate is a red herring.

As for comparing Canada to France or Germany, there is no comparison. In total numbers, France has found 945 cases and Germany 357 cases during the same time span Canada has found four cases. Given that the level of knowledge about BSE worldwide happened at the same time, there is no reason to believe Canada is on a later incidence time cycle as the EU, only that the EU had incurred many more infections before it was commonly understood how infection occurred and compliance with procedures was achieved. Thus higher levels of infectivity were reached before serious control measures could take effect.

It should also be noted that most of the beef consumed in EU countries like France is obtained from older animals - animals older than 24 months of age. Their slaughter class is mostly older animals - the reverse of fed beef countries like the U.S. and Canada. That is a key reason EU countries test so many more animals. Some EU countries also test excessive numbers in a public relations attempt to bolster consumer confidence.

However, all of that is still testing for incidence of animal disease, not a measure of risk to humans. There is no connection between animal surveillance testing and beef safety, once a country has implemented SRM removal in its slaughter procedures.

But that has not stopped R-CALF from fostering the impression there is a connection to achieve its goals.

*"Inadequacy of Canada's BSE Surveillance Program," R-CALF, 4/28/05, R-CALF website

Next time: What R-CALF Is Claiming to Get Its Way

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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