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(Adds Bunge comment, background on plant, FDA policy; market activity)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a shipment of canola meal on Dec. 1 from a Bunge Ltd plant in Hamilton, Ontario, because it appeared to contain salmonella bacteria, FDA records show.
Salmonella can cause food-borne illness in humans. However, canola meal is mainly shipped to the United States for use in animal feed, especially in the California dairy industry.
Shipments that were halted over salmonella concerns interrupted trade between half a dozen Canadian canola meal processing plants and U.S. buyers in 2009 and 2010. The FDA then imposed shipping restrictions on the plants, but has since softened its policy.
Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidel said the company is shipping Canadian canola meal as usual to U.S. buyers, with no restrictions.
She said the FDA notified the company last month of the contaminated shipment, which did not enter the United States. The FDA has sampled subsequent shipments of Bunge canola meal, and all tested negative for salmonella, Seidel said.
The FDA altered its policy for flagging animal feed shipments with salmonella in 2013 to focus on specific strains known to cause animal disease. It maintained zero tolerance for salmonella in pet food because of greater risk to humans.
The FDA did not immediately comment.
A search of the FDA's online records for 2015 did not show other refusals from Canadian canola plants.
Canada is the world's top exporter of canola, which is crushed mainly for its oil.
The United States is by far Canada's biggest canola meal export market, importing about 3 million tonnes in 2015, or 96 percent of the country's exports, according to Canadian government data published by the Canola Council of Canada.
The Hamilton plant is one of five oilseed crushing plants in Canada owned by Bunge. Last year, a fire interrupted canola and soybean processing at the facility.
ICE Canada March canola futures rose 0.9 percent midday, along with U.S. soybeans. Bunge shares edged up 0.2 percent in New York. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli)