Canada's BSE risk status application delayed, but moving forward

Canada’s current bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) status, as defined by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), is “controlled risk.” Canada was eligible to apply to downgrade its risk status last summer; however, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it’s on track to submit for “negligible risk” status by July of this year.

“The U.S. has that status, and we’re 11 years now from the last case (and that) allows us to make that application,” says David Moss, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. “So we’re heading into that process right now.”

A move to negligible risk status will decrease the level of trim required in processing animals, thereby improving competitiveness with the U.S.. It will also improve potential access into foreign markets.

In order to move to be deemed “negligible risk” under the OIE’s standards, a country must meet specific standards, and demonstrate it has never had a case of BSE in a domestic animal, or, demonstrate that any infected domestic animals were born more than 11 years ago.

For Canada, the most recent birth date of a BSE case — Case 19, detected in February 2015 — was March 25, 2009.

Canada could have submitted its application ahead of the 11 year mark, as the entire decision protocol takes nearly a year. A July 2020 submission won’t be decided on until March of 2021, with announced changes, if granted, announced next May.

Moss says the reasons for the delay are internal to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but adds Canada does have a unique challenge in that the way we manage meat and bone meal is different here than in Europe. Continues below audio player.

“So part of it is having to make a case — a narrative, if you will — in terms of what we do in North America and how it’s safe, and how it’s a proven and scientific approach to managing meat and bone meal.”

Building that case, says Moss, takes a bit more time, but that BSE is “a disease that truly is on its downturn.”

“That’s part of that narrative that we have to get across to OIE when we make applications — let’s keep this in context. We may have a different system and methodology of managing our meat and bone meal than Europeans do, but it still works.”

Moss gives credit to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for its work on the application, and adds it’s been a team effort.

“All industry sectors that are involved with this application are digging in, and providing the information and the data that we need to make that application.”

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