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Cattle ate traces of animal remains

Published on 5 December, 2006, Last updated at 22:28 GMT


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Monday that 10,000 cattle in Ontario and Quebec have consumed feed containing traces of animal byproducts, but the risk of exposing humans to mad cow disease is negligible.

The feed used on 113 farms became contaminated recently when a rail car used to ship meat and bone meal for hog and poultry feed was later employed to transport blood meal that was added to cattle feed.

The beef will be sold to Canadians, but the food inspection agency has decided to track the cattle movements so they cannot be exported. Darcy Unseth, a veterinarian with the agency, said Russia and Lebanon refuse to accept meat that comes from cattle exposed to meat and bone meal.

Unseth said 33 sheep and five goats that ate the feed will be placed under similar transport controls. The food inspection agency refused to identify the farms that used the feed for privacy reasons.

Agribrands Canada spokesman Rob Meijer said the company voluntarily recalled the feed produced at its plants at Addison near Brockville in eastern Ontario and Drummondville, Que., east of Montreal.

Meijer said the company disposed of the feed at landfill sites and replaced it with cattle feed that did not contain meat and bone meal.

''Feed ingredients come in bulk rail car shipments and there is a cleanout procedure when you are unloading and loading,'' Meijer said. ''Our suppliers are supposed to bang on the cars with rubber mallets to shake loose any material that may be caught in corners and then wash the hopper cars.

''Unfortunately in this case the cleaning may not have been done thoroughly enough. Out of respect for domestic and international sensitivity on this issue, we wanted to make sure that there was no potential for human or animal concerns. We produced the feed and we take 100-per-cent responsibility for this issue.''

Unseth said the cattle ate the feed for up to two weeks but there is no evidence that the feed is a threat human health.

Canada has a partial ban on adding animal byproducts to cattle feed. In 1997, the government banned the feeding of cattle remains back to cattle and other ruminants, but it still allows cattle remains to be used in feed for chickens, hogs and pets.

The food agency is investigating because the production of cattle feed that includes meat, bones and some other byproducts violates government feed regulations and carries a maximum possible penalty of a $250,000 fine and two years in prison.

There is concern and scientific evidence that cross-contamination of animal feed streams can contribute to the spread of the infectious and persistent prions that cause brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.

James Atkinson, a University of Guelph animal nutritionist, said meat and bone meal is added to pig and poultry feed as a source of calcium, phosphorus and protein.


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