An important step forward was taken May 27 for the Canadian beef industry, as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recognized Canada as negligible risk for Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

“The recommendation by the OIE’s Scientific Commission to grant Canada negligible risk status for BSE is a historic closing of the BSE era for Canada which brought [unprecedented] hardship to our industry in the early 2000’s,” says Bob Lowe, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).

The attainment of negligible risk puts Canada at the lowest level for transmission of BSE, alongside the U.S. which attained their status in 2013. The control of BSE across the globe is a remarkable achievement for OIE members. To achieve negligible risk, a country must demonstrate the last case of classical BSE was born more than 11 years ago, and that effective control measure and surveillance systems are in place. Canada’s last case was born in 2009.

“Across the country, the cattle industry has been working tirelessly to ensure that Canadians have access to safe, nutritious, and affordable products,” says Senator Rob Black. “This designation means that our beef producers can expand into foreign markets that were previously inaccessible. I would like to thank all those involved in ensuring this process came to fruition, including the Government of Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and the many farmers, ranchers, and consumers who continued to support our beef industry throughout hard times.”

Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farms of Ontario, also expresses relief on behalf of the organization and its 19,000 members in the province. “Confirmation of our negligible-risk status will sllow us to finally begin work to resolve remaining BSE-era market access restrictions that have had a negative impact on our sector’s competitiveness,” he says.

Chris White CEO of the Canadian Meat Council stated, “The industry looks forward to working with the government to pursue the range of export opportunities that is now available to our members.”

Although difficult to fully quantify the direct economic impacts of BSE between 2003, when the first case was reported, and 2006, losses were estimated to be between $4.9 to $5.5 billion.

The CCA says they will now focus on removing the remaining BSE era market access restrictions as well as aligning packing house requirements with international recommendations.

Hear Shaun Haney’s discussion with Bob Lowe, President of CCA on the announcement and the impacts of BSE on the industry

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