I – for Feb. 19, 2009

This issue that erupted in August 2008 with the discovery of some cold packaged meat products containing listeriosis could have been marred or made ugly by all kinds of denial, and “no comment” comments.

But right from the get-go you could tell this was a company that wanted to accept responsibility, first of all to stop the spread of the tainted products that ultimately caused 56 people to become ill and played a role in the death of 20 people, and then to clean up what ever problem there was in their meat processing line and make sure it never happened again.

Maybe I just watch too many Law and Orders, but often enough I run into companies and even industry associations that figure the best policy in dealing with a negative subject is either to deny it or at least ignore it. Play dumb and the problem will go away.

I don’t know if I every lost faith in Maple Leaf products during this whole affair. I am sure some people did. My 23-year-old son, for example, who is a bit of an odd ball anyway, won’t eat any cold meat products now unless they are fried to ‘kill the bacteria’. But, if I ever was a bit leery about Maple Leaf products last fall, I certainly now have every confidence that they are producing completely safe food products.

And a large part of that has to do with their belief in “honesty is the best policy.”

Editor

AG REPS WELCOMED BACK

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) President Ed Bothner says his organization is pleased to learn that the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture will be reintroducing a number of agricultural specialist positions to locations in rural Saskatchewan.

“These new staff positions will help fill the void created when most of the province’s rural service centres were closed in 2004 in favour of a central call centre,” says Bothner.

“We commend Minister Bjornerud for coming to the sensible conclusion that when it comes to providing producers with timely technical information that reflects conditions in their home region, the call centre approach was not sufficient,” says Bothner.

“It only makes sense that an agricultural consultant’s ability to understand local conditions with respect to things like climate, crop conditions, and pests will be enhanced if he or she actually lives in the neighbourhood and observes those conditions as they develop on a daily basis. Having a local Ag-Rep

think if there is any organization, in my memory, that has handled a bad situation well it has to be Maple Leaf Foods. They don’t need to be made heroes, but in my view they’ve handled the whole tainted meat issue with compassion and professionalism.

facilitates face to face meetings with producers and the development of personal associations and networks that can only be built by being immersed in the life of a community.”

BSE TEST FOUND

A team led by scientists at the University of Calgary has discovered that a simple and inexpensive blood test done on live animals should be able to detect the presence of BSE infection in cattle and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in elk months before clinical signs of the disease become evident.

This is viewed as a major breakthrough because until now the diagnosis of the disease could only be done using brain samples from dead animals.

Researchers studied 19 CWDinfected and non-infected elk and 16 BSE-infected and non-infected cattle and were able to identify specific DNA sequences in blood samples of live animals infected with CWD (elk) or BSE (cattle).

“The next steps are to analyze a time course series for BSE-infected cattle, to screen different cattle breeds for variances in the sequence patterns and also to look at cattle with brain tumors, brain trauma and other brain infections to make sure we are really picking up BSE,” says Christoph Sensen, the principal investigator from the University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine. “Once that is done, our team sees the possibility for the production of a low-cost, high-output standard test kit for industry use in the next few years.”

It is expected that a future test kit would be cheaper than currently used post-mortem BSE tests, available at a price that would be affordable for most farmers.

Scientists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) collaborated on the study and say the test would benefit the cattle industry both in Alberta, and worldwide.

“It would be possible to certify live animals and beef to be ‘BSEtested’ and to keep the export channels open at all times,” says Stefanie Czub, DVM/PhD, a study co-author and head of the CFIA BSE laboratory and a part of the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Kevin Keough from the Alberta Prion Research Institute says the research findings hold much promise, “There is currently no reliable way to tell if an animal may have a prion infection before it becomes obviously sick. If there were a reliable way to know, it would be of great benefit to producers, processors and wildlife managers.”

E. COLI VACCINE

Rick Culbert, president of Bioniche Food Safety, was in Gatineau, Quebec earlier this month presenting information on the company’s Econiche cattle vaccine, to the Canadian Beef Value Chain Roundtable. The two-day roundtable involved representatives from regulatory authorities, ranchers, feedlot operators, processors, retail and food service representatives, feed suppliers and others. They were meeting to develop a strategy focused on improving competitiveness of the Canadian beef industry through market access and development, the regulatory environment, research and innovation and information transfer.

Econiche is described as the world’s first vaccine developed to reduce the shedding by cattle of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157. The vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of E. coli O157 shed into the environment by beef and dairy cattle and, in turn, reduce the risk to human health. The company says on-farm interventions to reduce the shedding of E. coli O157 by cattle, such as simple vaccination of cattle with Econiche, have the potential to reduce food and water contamination and the consequences associated with human infection with the deadly bacteria. Clinical trials conducted with Econiche have shown a significant reduction in the amount of

E. coli shed in the manure of vaccinated cows.

EASTER IN CANADA

Three blondes died and found themselves standing before St. Peter.

He told them that before they could enter the Kingdom, they had to tell him what Easter represented.

The first blonde, an American, said “Easter is a holiday where they have a big feast and we give thanks and eat turkey.”

St. Peter said, “Noooooo,” and he banished her to Hell.

The second blonde, a Brit, said “Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’ birth and exchange gifts.” St. Peter said, “Noooooo,” and he banished her to Hell.

The third blonde, a Canadian, said she knew what Easter was, and St. Peter said, “So, tell me.”

She said, “Easter is a Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus was having Passover feast with His disciples when He was betrayed by Judas, and the Romans arrested Him. The Romans hung Him on the cross and eventually He died. Then they buried Him in a tomb behind a very large boulder…”

St. Peter said, “Verrrrrry good.” Then the blonde continued,

“Now, every year the Jews roll away the boulder and Jesus comes out. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of hockey.”

St. Peter fainted.

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