On December 17, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed a case of an atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an eight-and-a-half-year-old beef cow on a farm in Alberta.

On December 21, South Korea announced it would be restricting Canadian beef imports due to the case.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to break down the restriction.

Laycraft says due to the nature of it being an atypical case, the ban should be very temporary, and lifted sooner rather than later — within days, not months.

“Within our veterinary certificate, there’s a clause where whenever a case of BSE is found — and it really doesn’t discriminate between classical and atypical — it allows them to suspend imports until they get more information about the case,” Laycraft explains. “As soon as you confirm it’s atypical, your case effectively closes and your investigation concludes. All that information was sent to South Korea yesterday (Dec 21). My understanding is they asked a few more questions and that was sent before the end of the business day yesterday.”

The fact that Canada has also received negligible risk status for BSE doesn’t hurt us in this situation either, says Laycraft.

“It shows that we’ve got all the measures but within it, whether or not we had with an atypical case, it doesn’t change or affect your status at all. And again, with the current OIE [The World Organization for Animal Health] rules, you can safely trade beef and should be trading to all countries around the world cattle of all ages, whether you’re controlled or negligible risk, but you know, over there, they’re highly sensitive. So negligible risk definitely helps in their context,” he says.

Check out the full conversation between Dennis Laycraft and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney, below (story continues):

Because of how the veterinary certificate currently works, the CCA is working on updating it to be more similar to other countries, to attempt to minimize situations like this. The current version, says Laycraft, was negotiated back in 2015.

“It’s a matter of sitting down [with the Food Safety Authority] and working that through, but hopefully that gets resolved soon. And generally speaking, statistically, the incidence of an atypical is very, very low around the world. And you know, hopefully we’re not going to see one again for a very long time. But it’s better to get these things cleaned up now,” he explains.

From January to October 2021, Canadian beef exports to South Korea were 9,600 tonnes, valued at $81.7 million. This is up 109 per cent in volume and 165 per cent in value from the same period in 2020, representing 2.2 per cent of total beef exports and surpassing the 6,800 tonnes exported for the calendar year 2020, says CCA.

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