Beef spokesman urges better transparency from food inspection agency

Co-chair of the Alberta Beef Producers speaks out over concerns with bovine TB

The co-chair of the Alberta Beef Producers says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency needs to be more transparent with ranchers affected by a case of bovine tuberculosis in the province.

The case has led to the quarantine of 30 farms and several herds will likely have to be destroyed.

Bob Lowe told radio station CHQR that he can understand some secrecy from the CFIA, but "if you tell a guy his whole herd is going to be condemned and then you don't say why, that leads to a lot of suspicions and rumours.''

The initial herd owned by Brad Osadszuk is set to be euthanized next week, and Lowe says it could be four to six weeks later before testing on the animals is complete and we know if there's another case of bovine TB.

Lowe says cases of the bacteria are very rare with the last one in Alberta in 2007.

It's a concern though in all animals, wild and domesticated, and even humans and that's the reason why the CFIA is taking the precautions.

Andy Potter with the International Vaccine Center in Saskatchewan says bovine TB is very closely related to human tuberculosis.

"Although it's not a great risk to people, those who are immuno-compromised, higher risk people, it can be an issue there. I think that's one of the reasons why you see borders closed quite quickly and that type of thing because human health is involved.''

Potter says it's is a complicated disease to control. He says animals can carry the bacteria for months or years before being diagnosed.

"When one starts looking at tracing where an animal has been and who it has been in contact with, it becomes a lot more complicated because you're looking at a period that could be many years in length.''

Meanwhile, Lowe is concerned for the livelihood of the ranchers. While their cattle are quarantined, they can't sell them. This is the time of year when producers sell off their calves so the case of TB couldn't happen at a worse time.

"We're talking with both federal and provincial ministers of agriculture constantly, trying to figure out a way to move these calves. That's the critical thing to get the calves out of there. That will alleviate a lot of pressure on these ranchers.''

"We're trying to get everybody to put pressure on the CFIA but the CFIA is a pretty immovable object. They have a mandate to protect the food supply and they're following that mandate.''

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