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Canola meal exports up, U.S. to ease barriers

(Reuters) — Canadian exports of canola meal to the United States have picked up in the current marketing year, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks to ease restrictions on imports of animal feed with salmonella bacteria.

The FDA posted a draft policy on its website last August that would limit its enforcement actions against animal feed shipments with salmonella to just a few types of the bacteria known to cause disease in animals and poultry, instead of flagging all shipments with salmonella.

It is unclear when the FDA’s new policy takes effect, but Canadian canola meal shipments to the U.S. rose 17 per cent from August through October, Statistics Canada says.

The FDA imposed shipping restrictions in the past two years against seven Canadian crushing plants whose canola meal exports contained salmonella, although only two plants are still on import-alert status.

Salmonella causes about 40,000 reported cases of food-borne illness in humans and kills 400 people in the U.S. annually. However, canola meal is shipped to the U.S. for use in feed for dairy cattle.

The FDA, in the Oct. 29 U.S. Federal Register, announced it would extend the comment period on its draft compliance policy guide (CPG) in question for an extra two months, giving “interested persons” until Dec. 31.

The extension followed a request from an unnamed party, conveying “concern that the current 90-day comment period does not allow sufficient time to develop a meaningful or thoughtful response to the draft CPG.”

An FDA spokesperson was not available for comment.

The Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, which represents Richardson International, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus and Viterra, supports the new policy, it said in a Dec. 29 letter to the FDA, as does the American Feed Industry Association.

“Higher-risk areas”

More reliable access to the U.S. comes as the Canadian industry is on pace for a record year of crushing, creating more canola meal.

“It’s unfortunate we had this issue with the U.S., (but) I’m really happy that it seems to be on the way of being resolved,” said Dave Hickling, vice-president of utilization for the Canola Council of Canada.

“It’s going to help the FDA, help the industry, it’s going to allow more focus on the higher-risk areas which they should be focusing on.”

Canada is the world’s top exporter of canola, which is crushed for its oil and meal.

Canadian canola meal shipments to the U.S. fell nearly one-third to 1.2 million tonnes worth $246 million during the 2009-10 crop year, which ended on July 31.

Viterra and ADM plants are still under import restrictions and changes in enforcement will not affect the FDA’s process of lifting measures already in place, Hickling said.

— Rod Nickel writes for Reuters from Winnipeg. Includes files from Dave Bedard at AGCanada.com.

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