Saturday, February 28, 2015

BSE cow is second from same farm

The Alberta cow recently confirmed to be infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is the second one from the same farm.

The other case was in 2010.

That raises even more questions about the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s ability to keep the disease under control and trade channels open.

China has now joined five other countries that are refusing to take any beef from Canada.

The CFIA did not say whether it caught the second case from the same farm because it’s examining the brain tissue of all animals sent to slaughter from that farm.

Nor has it explained how the second cow, born after a ban on feeding rendered materials to cattle, was able to catch the disease via feed.

It’s the CFIA which has said feed is the most likely source of infection for that cow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beef and dairy lead in food poisonings

More than 80 percent of cases of food poisonings by E. coli 0167:H7 can be traced to beef and row-crop vegetables, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S, Centers for Disease Control.

In at least several well-documented cases, the vegetables were contaminated with livestock manure in irrigation water.

The three agencies gathered and analyzed about 1,000 cases of food poisoning cases between 1998 and 2012 caused by Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter.

According to CDC estimates, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year.

Almost three-quarters of Campylobacter illnesses were caused by dairy (66 per cent) or chicken (eight per cent); 82 per cent of E. coli O157 illnesses were caused by beef (46 per cent) or vegetables grown in rows (36 per cent), and 81 per cent of Listeria illnesses were caused by either fruits (50 per cent) or dairy (31 per cent).

With salmonella, the range was broader, with 77 per cent of illnesses attributed to vegetables grown from seeds (18 per cent), eggs (12 per cent), fruits (12 per cent), chicken (10 percent), sprouts (eight percent), beef (nine percent), and pork (eight percent).

I find the sprouts statistic hard to believe because they have so often caused major outbreaks of food poisoning.

Dr. Chris Braden of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, said a single methodology allows agencies to better coordinate their efforts.

"We can do more as a group than we can individually."
His comments are in the context of a proposal from President Barack Obama to have a single agency responsible for food safety.


Loblaws profits surge

Forget all that hand-wringing about the arrival of stiff competition from Target and Wal-Mart.

Loblaws and Sobeys used that to their considerable advantage, squeezing suppliers for lower prices, including across-the-board cuts of two per cent on invoices early last year.

Loblaws fourth-quarter profits more than doubled to $247-million, or 60 cents per share, for the 13-week period ended Jan. 3, up from $114-million, or 41 cents per share, for the same quarter a year earlier.

But that didn't stop the drum-beat of dire warnings about stiff competition. Galen Weston is quoted in the Globe and Mail saying the store-closing sales by Target will hurt Loblaws sales in the short term.

Ah, but in the long term, he also said Loblaws would be better off. No doubt! But what about the suppliers, especially farmers who don't have supply management?

Loblaws revenue was $11.4-billion, which included $3-billion from Shoppers Drug Mart chain which it bought last year. That was up by nearly 50 per cent from $7.6 billion a year earlier.

Loblaw’s adjusted earnings soared to $396-million from $161-million last year.

Loblaws is by far the largest supermarket chain in Canada.

It sells under a number of names including Zehrs, Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, T&T Supermarket, Fortinos and Provigo.

Ontario makes progress against PED

The Ontario Pork Council and the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board have been achieving remarkable progress cleaning up herds that were infected with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

There are 108 sites registered in its ARC&E (area regional control and elimination) program and 82 of those have achieved “presumed negative” status.

Five involved Delta coronavirus and one of those five also had PED.

That’s a 76 per cent success rate.

Our industry has proven we can eliminate PED from all types of pig sites,” say the two organizations.
They launched the ARC&E program several years ago to address the PRRS (Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome) virus.

Maple Leaf posts another loss

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. posted another fourth-quarter and annual loss, but has finished a major overhaul of its meat-processing facilities and is positioned to increase sales.

The fourth-quarter loss was $13.7 million, considerably better than a year ago when the loss was $56 million. The annual loss was 75.5 million, down from $136.5 million a year ago.

Revenues increased by 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter to $794 million, but only because of a significant price increase for its products because sales volume declined.

Annual revenues declined by 6.9 per cent to $3.2 billion.

The hog production and feed milling business in Manitoba improved significantly this year, posting a profit of $5.4 million compared with a loss of $10 million last year. Hog profits improved dramatically this year, but feed-milling margins declined.

The transition to a new meat-processing plant in Hamilton will soon be completed. Production at the Schneider plant in Kitchener ends today and the only remaining plant to be closed is in Toronto.

The Panet Road plant in Winnipeg closed during the fourth quarter.

President and chief executive officer Michael McCain says "we have completed what we set out to accomplish in 2007 and finished the year with new momentum."

The company has struggled to get the new equipment at Hamilton running properly and to get production up to targets.

But the North American climate for Canadian meat packers has improved significantly with the decline in the value of the Canadian dollar.

On the other hand, the margin between the Canadian and U.S. prices for pork, which is a major input cost for Maple Leaf, is poised to narrow because it seems almost certain that the U.S. will be forced to abandon its Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations that have been depressing the price of Canadian hogs by about $1 billion a year.

That will be partially offset by an increase in the value of the hogs that are raised on farms owned by Maple Leaf.

Quebec loses last appeal on margarines

Quebec has lost its last appeal against an interprovincial trade panel’s decision on restrictions for sales of vegetable oil-based dairy products in the province.

An appellate panel, convened under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), has upheld the original decision last spring in favour of Saskatchewan’s challenge against Quebec’s former Food Products Act.

Saskatchewan says it has now “won all aspects” of its case dairy blends, dairy analogues and dairy alternatives.

Saskatchewan said the ruling reiterates that barriers against production and sale of vegetable oil-based products in Quebec are to be removed, thus allowing producers and processors to “freely sell their products in Quebec.”

Quebec depends heavily on the dairy industry and Saskatchewan is Canada’s largest producer of canola which is crushed to yield vegetable oil.