WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused 19 shipments of Canadian canola meal from Cargill in October after finding they contained the harmful bacteria salmonella.
The shipments all came from Cargill’s Clavet, Saskatchewan canola-crushing plant, according to reports posted on the FDA’s website. The plant was already under shipping restrictions from the FDA for earlier canola meal shipments with salmonella, along with two plants owned by Bunge and one by Viterra.
Salmonella is bacteria that caused widespread food-born illness in the United States this year. But canola meal is used as livestock feed for cattle and the Canadian canola industry has suggested it should not be treated as strictly as food products. Industry officials have also said salmonella is present virtually everywhere, from farms to plants to rail cars.
Cargill has made improvements to its Clavet plant and its crushing processes to mitigate the salmonella risk, said spokesman Robert Meijer.
“Salmonella is one of those things that are out there and every aspect in the chain needs to do its best to control it, drive it down and try to eliminate it,” Meijer said. “We’re doing our part and we’re going to be looking to our partners to do their part.”
The Canadian Oilseed Processors Association (COPA) was meeting with FDA officials in Washington on Monday, Meijer said.
“At the end of the day, it’s our hope that the FDA will see our work and efforts and see that very positively and good things will come out of it,” he said.
The restrictions against Canadian canola plants have resulted in a sharp drop in overall canola crushing volumes in Canada. Crushers had processed less than 1.1 million tonnes of canola from August 1 to last Wednesday, or 7.9 percent less than during a similar period a year earlier, according to the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association (COPA).
The United States is Canada’s top export market for canola meal.
Some canola exporters are now avoiding the U.S. and are instead shipping canola meal and pellets through Port of Vancouver to smaller markets like Taiwan and Thailand at lower returns, said one canola industry source who asked not to be identified.
Plants are also producing canola feed in pellet form, rather than meal, because pellets are heated during processing, which reduces the chances of salmonella contamination, the source said.
The FDA refused 16 of Cargill’s shipments on October 30 and three on October 12.
Canadian seed crushers produce 2.5 million tonnes of canola meal annually, worth about C$500 million ($476 million).
Canada is the world’s largest exporter of canola seed, which is also under pressure after China placed restrictions on imports of Canadian and Australian canola with blackleg disease.
ICE Canada January canola futures traded up 1.8 percent at the close on Monday, following big gains in U.S. soybeans and crude oil futures.
Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jim Marshall