Thursday August 21, 2014

CFIA protections weakened

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The role of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is changing to the point I suspect most will imagine it does less for our safety than is actually the case these days.

In the March 2014 edition of Agrinews, published by the Communication Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture, an article caught my eye which illustrates a change I suspect most of the public is not aware of.

“In 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that, effective April 1, 2013, its staff would no longer provide disease control or response activities for anthrax. In addition, CFIA staff would no longer conduct risk assessments, collect and submit samples or continue animal control activities such as quarantines for rabies cases effective April 1, 2014,” detailed the article.

Both rabies and anthrax can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Rabies was once a highly feared disease, and anthrax remains one which gets enough play as a doomsday disease in books and movies that it remains a worrisome one for anyone paying attention to its potential as a killer.

And certainly both diseases exist in Saskatchewan, and for that matter across the Canadian Prairies.

The aforementioned articles notes there is a risk of anthrax across Saskatchewan, and urges livestock producers to discuss that fact with their veterinarians, since vaccination becomes more important at a time the CFIA has pulled away from most of its efforts in the area of the disease.

Producers also face some added cost-risk with the changes since the CFIA no longer covers the cost of proper carcass disposal.

Rabies should be a disease we all pay attention too.

“Rabies virus is transmitted through saliva, usually by bites. Wild animals such as skunks, or sometimes bats, can infect unvaccinated domestic animals. Rabid dogs and cats can infect people via bites or scratches or even licks on broken skin,” notes the article.

From personal experience I can assure there is a level of worry when in contact with wild animals which seem unusual. One morning a wayward bat found its way into the house, and ended up landing on the bed. You can imagine the basic fear that grips you when you roll over and put your hand on a bat that flaps away.

The basic response was panic.

That was followed by awkward bat capture, and then waiting until tests came back that the bat was indeed free of rabies, allying our fears of whether it might have transmitted anything.

While vaccination of pets and animals which might come into contact with people, and infected wild animals, is prudent, it is again worrisome CFIA is not involved in the system to protect us from rabies.

Public safety, spearheaded by a federally-funded organization which provides standardized regulations from coast-to-coast is exactly what we should expect from our central government.

That such a mandate seems to be eroding away under the current Conservative government in Ottawa cannot be seen as anything but a step back in terms of protecting the health of both Canadian livestock and people.

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