August 10, 2006


Canada may ban US pork due to antibiotic treatment



US hog producers are facing a possible ban by Canada's health agency as it alleges that some pork shipments in the US came from animals treated with the antibiotic carbadox.


Canada is in the process of finalising its ban on the use of carbadox.


The chemical is widely used on hogs in the US, National Pork Producers Council Chief Executive Officer Neil Dierks said.


The issue is worrying US hog producers as Canada is the third largest customer of US pork, behind Mexico and Japan, said Dierks.


Last year, Canada imported 130,581 tonnes of US pork with an estimated value of US$395.6 million


US pork accounts for more than 10 percent of Canada's pork consumption.


Kansas State University swine nutrition specialist Mike Tokach said carbadox, which is only approved for use in hogs, is fed to pigs to promote growth in the early stages of an animal's life and prevent infections. 


The EU, Japan and now Canada now ban carbadox because of a possible link to cancer in humans, said Tokach. Cases where residues of the drug were detected due to feeding in the late stages have also presented a stronger case for the ban.


Currently, the US only prohibits its use for the last 42 days before the animal is marketed.


Most US producers are reluctant to use carbadox in feed for pigs weighing over 50 pounds because of the added cost involved, he said.


While there are other alternatives to carbadox, they may not be as effective.


Dierks favours continued testing for residues but Canadian worries puts the issue in the realm of principles. The differences are in production systems rather than food safety, he stressed.


Dierks believes that Canadian officials will likely publish a proposal on the issue this fall. A public comment period is expected, so it will be later this year before a final draft is ready and the country would probably enforce it in 2007, he said.


Meanwhile, the Canadian Pork Council is working to prevent US retaliation, should a ban be imminent.


The Canadian Pork Council has said that the monitoring and restrictions of US hogs due to the use of carbadox needs to be the least trade-disrupting.


USDA figures showed that Canadian pork, at 836.7 million pounds, made up 82 percent of the US pork imports in 2005.

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