CFIA stands by decision to allow salmon processing

Nick Moase
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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is standing by its decision to allow Queens County fish infected with Infectious Salmon Anemia to go to market.


ISA infected fish from Queens County are going to market. The CFIA decided the risk of spreading is low, and allowed Cooke Aquaculture to process the fish.

ISA was discovered at the Cooke Aquaculture site by Coffin Island in June of 2012. The site was quickly placed in quarantine, and the company culled two of the cages.

However about 240,000 fish were allowed to grow to market size after it was determined the risk of the disease spreading was low. In January, Cooke Aquaculture began harvesting the fish and sending them to their processing plant in New Brunswick.

Contrary to reports, the CFIA's decision to allow the fish to be processed is not the result of a change in the rules. The organization says they look each outbreak to decide what the best course of action should be. In this case they felt letting the salmon continue to grow and be processed was acceptable.

"Canada’s response protocol is guided by science and consistent with recommendations from the World Organization for Animal Health," they said in a news release.

"Infectious salmon anaemia poses no human health or food safety risk, and there is strong scientific proof of this."

A study led by the European Union in 2000 concluded that there is no reason to regard infectious salmon anaemia as a zoonosis, or jumping to humans, and that there is no evidence of a risk to humans.

All animals used for food are inspected by the CFIA, and those that are not fit for human consumption are not permitted for processing.

When ISA is discovered, it must be reported to the CFIA. In cases where the disease is only known to affect the animal, the CFIA may allow them to be processed under strict guidelines. The idea is to limit the spreading of the disease to other animals.

 When ISA is suspected of being present at an aquaculture premises, the CFIA places a quarantine to control movements of potentially infected animals, vessels and other equipment. When ISA is confirmed, the CFIA controls its spread by carrying out disease response activities.

These may include:

- continued control of the movements of infected fish, boats and other equipment

- overseeing the appropriate destruction of infected animals

- cleaning and disinfection of nets and other equipment once fish have been removed

 - a required fallow period prior to restocking of the facility.

The control measures chosen depend on the situation.

Anything used around the infected site can only be moved with a CFIA issued license. These licenses would only be issued once the CFIA has received, reviewed and approved all involved facilities’ standard operating procedures. These procedures identify the controls that are in place to prevent spread of the disease to other susceptible aquatic animal species.

As an added precaution, all fish destined for human consumption are inspected in accordance with the Fish Inspection Regulations. Fish that are not fit for human consumption are not permitted for processing.

Organizations: World Organization for Animal Health, European Union

Geographic location: Coffin Island, New Brunswick, Canada

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Recent comments

  • George
    February 12, 2013 - 22:21

    Sell infected fish today, and there is a good chance that you won't be selling many, (if any), fish tomorrow.

  • Joyce M
    February 12, 2013 - 00:42

    It is a slippery slope. First ISA was a huge problem and caused all kinds of action, culling, strict quarantine, long fallow periods etc. Then as the disease proved to be impossible to control in the mind- boggling densities that are necessary for the farms to get the profit they insist they need, the slippery slope appeared. The fallow periods have shrunk way down. Government control decreased. The government subsidies for the slaughtering of whole farms with the disease were extremely expensive, 21 million at a time. This was not going to last forever. The slippery slope is in force. Now that ISA is still around, despite these measures, the industry and the government have decided to allow fish to remain in the cages if they test positive until they are grown enough to slaughter, as long as they do not show the effects very much. And to allow them to sell the fish on the market (if they can) which defuses the compensation problem. Nothing much is said about the wild fish that will have to navigate around these infected fish for months at a time. That is a side issue. Money for industry is where it is at. The ecosystem is a non-starter. “The wild fish are gone”, they say. Now we know why.

  • John Townsend
    February 08, 2013 - 08:26

    If C.F.I.A. commits to the 2000 study that I.S.A. is not transferable to humans, I accept this finding. Personally I would not consume this infected product, but that is personal. I would quailfy my statement by suggusting that any infected product for sale to the public should have a warning label stating the facts, that the product is infected with I.S.A., and that C.F.I.A. has deemed the product fit for human consumtion, give the consumer all the facts, and let the consumer make his/her own decision...To me wether this info. may affect sales is not the issue to me, simply after testing if issues are encountered by C.F.I.A., those findings should be part of the labeling process..., and let the public made aware... Thanks

  • swinsc
    February 06, 2013 - 07:02

    How could the CFIA and Cooke Aquaculture make a decision to leave infected fish in the Open-Sea for SIX MONTHS!.. this is a scandal and it smells like CFIA couldn't afford to chose the alternative sensible route which would have been to order the destruction of these ISA infected Open-Water Pens. With scant or little regard for the environment they chose to allow these franken-fish to live and defecate over the sea bed, spreading the ISA disease to Wild Fish. Shame on Cooke, CFIA and any Stores such as Loblaw and Costco that sell this rubbish.

    • paul
      February 06, 2013 - 16:39

      the answer is in this article...they assess every situation separately and have judged that this one was acceptable to continue grow out. in addition, this article references a 2000 study that showed that ISA is does not jump to humans. actually I'm glad I found this one since its more clear than the one in the Telegram you and I have been fighting over. you go ahead with your fear mongering though. I know you will.