af contributor |calgary
Last month’s foot and mouth disease (FMD) scare at the Olymel hog plant in Red Deer was a reminder of how close the livestock industry is to a crisis at any time. While the two-day event turned out to be just a scare, industry officials are using it to remind all parts of the production chain about the importance of emergency preparedness.
They say that while emergency planning should cover everything from fire through natural disaster through supply or staffing shortages, the primary concern is a disease outbreak.
“An outbreak of a serious disease doesn’t recognize borders, sectors of the industry, or other parts of the economy that are affected,” Larry Delvers, a director with Alberta Beef Producers said at a panel discussion on emergency preparedness at the recent Cross Border Livestock Health Conference in Calgary. “An outbreak will happen. We all need to be prepared to deal with it.”
Though Canada has rigid control measures in place, the globalization of trade, particularly the illegal movement of contraband agricultural goods, means that disease could cross into our country at any time.
Delvers said experts estimate that five tonnes of African “bushmeat” – poached wild game – enters France illegally every month.
Closer to home, he pointed out that authorities recently intercepted an illegal cache of ham in a shipment of dried mushrooms entering Vancouver from Asia. The find came just three months after an outbreak of a swine disease in Asia that was virulent enough to kill the testing veterinarian three days after he first saw the diseased hogs.
Panelist Rob McNabb of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said our world-class veterinary structure and the “good animal husbandry that is the hallmark of the Canadian system” are an excellent first line of defence. While Canada already has good surveillance and biosecurity, McNabb said authorities are working with industry to develop additional standards, such as increased regionalization capacity that would allow a threat to be contained with the least-possible effect to the rest of the livestock industry.
Dr. Jim Clark of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said every part of the production chain must be directly involved in the second element of emergency management – preparedness.
Clark said each stakeholder, from producer to processor to distributor to supplier, should understand how disease control and eradication activities could affect them.
He said each needs to have a written plan that addresses their actions, roles and responsibilities during and after a crisis. Specific individuals in each organization must be identified as responsible for and trained to carry out specific tasks (i. e.: biosecurity, communications, etc.).
Though no two organizations are identical, templates are available online. CFIA district veterinarians are available for support. Clark said, “This is not something you can let ride until the crisis occurs. The amount of time we take to get the response effective is going to affect how quickly we can manage the crisis.”
Clark said an emergency plan needs to be read, understood and practised regularly by all individuals in an organization, and then discussed and cross referenced between government and industry organizations.
Aaron Canart, representing the Agri- Beef Company of the U. S., says that their corporate emergency plan is considered robust for up to six weeks. All elements of quarantine, decontamination, interruption of feedstuffs, and communication are carefully planned. Six weeks of feed and fuel are onsite at the feedlot at all times, but emergency animal liquidation plans are also in place.
Response and recovery
The third element of emergency preparedness is response. Obviously, the more quickly a crisis can be managed, the more quickly industry can return to normal. McNabb lists traceability, prompt investigation and clear processes, enhanced surveillance, available resources, preset policy and regulations, and transparent communications between industry, government and trade partners as key elements of a swift and effective response.
Recovery is the final stage, McNabb said.
“Recovery is the hardest part of the process because it is not always under our control, because we are under the control of nations we export to.
“We hope that all the other elements of our response speak well to our trade partners – and to the Canadian public – so they can regain confidence in our products,” McNabb said.