New National Livestock Traceability database will improve Canadian Food Safety – Cowsmo

New National Livestock Traceability database will improve Canadian Food Safety

A new national livestock traceability database launching in 2016 will go a long way toward improving Canadian food safety, one expert says.

Sylvain Charlebois, a University of Guelph professor in food distribution and policy, called the federal government’s $7.5 million investment in the data system — announced in Calgary Thursday by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz — a “step in the right direction.”

Charlebois added if such a database had been in place in 2012, it might have been possible to reduce the impact of the XL Foods beef recall, the largest in the country’s history.

“I don’t think we would have been able to prevent the recall, but we could have limited its scope,” Charlebois said. “We would have been better able to manage risk along the supply chain.”

Once fully implemented, the national database will track the location and movement of livestock in the beef, dairy, veal, pork, sheep, bison, goat, equine, and poultry industries. It will bring together information from various industry groups, including the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency and Agri-Tracabilite Quebec, and combine it in one location — with the goal of streamlining regulations and reducing red tape.

While the pork and beef sectors currently have well-developed national traceability systems, other species have their own industry-led programs that are in different phases of development. The national database will ensure every sector’s information is complete and compiled in one place.

“The state of traceability in Canada will be improved while reducing the costs for industry and simplifying data reporting for producers,” said Terry Kremeniuk, board chair for Canadian Agri-Traceability Services.

Food safety is the number 1 priority, said Ritz, pointing to the BSE crisis and the recent Canadian outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea as examples of the importance of livestock traceability.

But he added the national database will also be helpful from a trade perspective. Newly signed trade deals with Korea and the European Union offer major opportunities to Canadian livestock producers, but these countries demand a high degree of livestock traceability.

“They’re requesting this for their consumers, and we’re able to deliver it,” Ritz said.

The E.U. is already well ahead of Canada when it comes to livestock traceability, said Charlebois, who compared the systems of 21 different countries in a report published in August. He said Canada currently is an “average performer at best” — in large part because it has lacked until now a comprehensive electronic database of livestock identifications and movements.

Charlebois said he believes Canada’s past efforts on traceability have been motivated too much by trade concerns, leading to well-developed systems for some species and patchwork systems for others. He said he’s pleased to see a comprehensive approach, because it indicates food safety is being taken seriously.

“The scale of this program means a lot. It means that we’re not focusing only on cattle and hogs because we see this as a trade issue — we’re really looking at it from the perspective of risk intelligence,” he said.

Source: The Calgary Herald

Scroll to Top