Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

World body says Canadian beef officially poses ‘negligible risk’ for mad cow disease

Beef producers are finally able to turn the page after an international watchdog gave the industry an all-clear

Canadian beef producers are finally able to turn the page on the mad cow era, the federal agriculture minister said Thursday after an international animal-health watchdog gave the industry a long-awaited all-clear.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health voted to approve Canada’s bid for the “negligible risk” designation — the most favourable category, which requires proof of extensive control and surveillance measures, as well as at least 11 years since the birth of the last infected animal.

“This has been extremely difficult for family farms, and for the industry — an industry that is built by families,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in an interview

”It’s kind of a page they can turn and they can look to a brighter future.”

Beef producers and the federal government have been working to restore the industry’s lustre ever since the first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE — better known as mad cow disease — was detected in Canada in 2003.

That discovery prompted a global shutdown of Canadian beef exports — a body blow to an industry that exports fully half of what it produces. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimated the losses at upwards of $5 billion over the following three years.

The impact has been resonating ever since, due to the increased cost of additional processing measures and the persistent chill on export markets that has persisted for nearly 20 years.

An estimated 26,000 producers left the industry entirely between 2006 and 2011, and more than 8,000 square kilometres of pasture lands were converted to other uses during that period, the association said.

Thursday’s decision “is a historic closing of the BSE era for Canada, which brought unprecedented hardship to our industry,” president Bob Lowe said in a statement.

Lowe thanked the government, veterinarians, and Canadian farmers and ranchers, as well as domestic beef consumers, “who supported Canada’s beef industry during the hardest times of BSE when Canadian beef couldn’t be exported.”

The decision will give Canada additional new leverage in its efforts to find new and expanded export markets for the country’s cattle and beef products, Bibeau said.

Canada has been deemed a “controlled-risk” country for BSE since 2007. The U.S., by comparison, secured negligible-risk status in 2013.

Bibeau said she’s hopeful that the decision will help bring new levels of efficiency and integration to the industry in both countries, now that processors in the U.S. will no longer need to manage American and Canadian cattle separately.

She warned, however, that those efficiencies won’t reappear overnight.

“We hope that now that we have reasonable-risk status, it will ease our collaboration and to export together to South Korea, for example,” she said.

“But it’s not something that because we have a negligible-risk status today, that starting today allows us to open up this discussion.”

Bibeau also said she remains hopeful that the U.S. won’t resurrect country-of-origin labelling rules for beef, which were repealed in 2016. Currently, imported beef can be sold as an American product, even if it was raised elsewhere but processed in the U.S.

Opponents of the measure, including Canada and Mexico, have successfully argued at the World Trade Organization that the measures only increase costs, diminish efficiency and run counter to the principles of North American trade.

Bibeau said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has publicly expressed support for the idea of new labelling rules for beef products, has assured her that the U.S. will not proceed with any measure that is not “trade-compliant.”

“On both sides, we are doing the best to support our industries,” Bibeau said.

“At the same time, we are so integrated and such close partners that we may challenge each other once in a while. But overall, doing business together is so important in the (agriculture) sector that we’ll have a strong but fair conversation.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Beef Industry

Just Posted

Tyler O’Neill has a shot at making the NL all-star team. (Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals)
Executive director of the Friends In Need Food Bank Mary Robson with Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods. (The News files)
Save-On-Foods 4th annual campaign for Maple Ridge food bank starts Thursday, June 17

50 per cent of net proceeds from Western Family brand to be donated

A white bicycle marks the intersection where Dillan Fernando was killed in Pitt Meadows on May 15. (Special to The News)
Family of cyclist killed in Pitt Meadows raising money for Sri Lankan tech centre in his honour

Computer hub would give underprivileged children access to equipment they can not afford

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air traffic at Pitt Meadows Airport returning

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Emiko Nakai will attend Warner Pacific University in Portland, Oregon next year. (Special to The News)
Three SRT Titans earn scholarships

Maple Ridge’s Emiko Nagai, Lucas Hutchinson, and Cade Armour will take talents to college level

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Cover of the 32-page Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers, created and compiled by Jeska Slater.
New ‘Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers’ seeks to ‘uplift and amplify’ voices

32-page guide launched Tuesday by Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

Most Read