Canada will wait for U.S. on feed ban

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 19, 2006
by WLJ
Agri-Food Canada has been working to put a newly enhanced feed ban in effect for several years. The new regulations would eliminate the inclusion of all specified risk materials in all animal feed, not just cattle feed. However, last week, Agri-Food Canada said the agency would postpone any rule-making decisions until the U.S. publishes a similar change to its feed ban. Canadian officials said the delay was made at the request of the Canadian beef industry which hopes to harmonize its regulations to those of the U.S. in order to be more competitive. Cattle producers last week applauded the delay in implementation. If the rule is scrapped, it will help Canada maintain a competitive edge, while also lowering processing costs which would increase significantly if the industry was forced to dispose of the waste covered by the proposed rule.
While Canada waits for direction from the U.S., there appears to be little movement in that direction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is responsible for monitoring feed production, is not currently considering any tightening of its feed ban regulations which prohibit the feeding of ruminant animal protein to cattle, while allowing the feeding of poultry litter and plate waste.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency first announced two years ago that it planned to issue an updated feed ban which would eliminate all specified risk materials, condemned cattle, carcasses, and other products from all animal feed, pet food and fertilizers. The delay may put those changes on hold permanently if the U.S. does not show intention to follow suit.

Last summer, former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford announced FDA intended to introduce a similar ban to the one proposed in Canada and already in effect in Europe. Crawford resigned his post three days after making the announcement, which left the controversial proposal with few supporters either in the industry or the government.

Instead of the strict feed ban originally proposed by Crawford, FDA instituted a modified ruminant feed ban which prohibits the use of ruminant brain, spinal column, distal ileum and other specified risk materials (SRMs) from being used in the production of feed for cattle.
Dr. Steven Sundlof of FDA said removing just the brain and spinal cord would greatly reduce any remaining risk while minimizing waste disposal problems.

“By removing the brains and spinal cords from the animal feed stream, you’ve taken out 90 percent of the risk,” he said.

Last October, FDA moved to further tighten the feed ban. Under the new rule, brains and spinal cords from cattle older than 30 months would be banned from all animal feeds, they said. The brain and spinal cord are among the SRMs—the tissues most likely to contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prions if an animal is infected.

Agri-Food Canada’s decision last week brought swift criticism from opponents on both sides of the border. Dr. Neil Cashman of PrioNet Canada, a group devoted to studying brain wasting diseases, including BSE, said the ban “should be instituted as soon as possible.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor