- WINNIPEG - CBC News has
learned that Canada narrowly avoided a food contamination problem similar
to the one that triggered a crisis in Belgium last spring. And there are
concerns we still lack the safety measures to prevent such an outbreak.
- Belgium's problems began when motor oil, containing dioxins,
was recycled into animal feed. In the uproar that followed, thousands
of farms were closed, grocery shelves were stripped and losses mounted
to more than $1 billion.
- It could happen in Canada. It almost did.
- Last July, a farmer near Beausejour, Man., made a mistake.
He mixed a fly spray with what he thought was crankcase oil. He sprayed
it on his cows to keep flies away. Five cows died and their carcasses
were taken away to a rendering plant.
- That should have sent off alarm bells. Crankcase oil
contains carcinogens like dioxin. And rendering turns the carcasses into
feed for other animals, putting it back into the food system.
- But there was no alarm set off, at least not by government.
Ottawa says rendering is a provincial responsibility. The province says
it's a federal matter.
- The confusion shocks University of Winnipeg toxicologist,
Prof. Eva Pip. She can't understand why it took the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency 10 days to warn farmers not to market pigs or chickens that had
been fed on possibly contaminated feed.
- "Ten days is excessive," Pip told CBC News.
"Someone dropped the ball."
- After two weeks, government officials found out it was
a false alarm. The cows might not have been rendered, but might have been
buried in a landfill. And tests proved the farmer's spray contained a herbicide,
not carcinogenic crankcase oil.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has declared the
feed system clean and clear.
- But this case has raised questions about what changes
are needed to prevent a real contamination crisis.