The U. S. Food and Drug Administration has lifted restrictions against imports of Canadian canola meal from a Bunge Ltd. plant in Hamilton, Ontario, easing barriers that have sharply cut Canadian exports to the United States.
The FDA had placed the Hamilton plant on its online list of plants on import-alert status due to concerns about salmonella bacteria in animal feeds. Two industry sources confirmed July 26 that the FDA had lifted its restrictions against the plant, which had allowed inspectors to detain shipments without physically examining them.
“They should be in a better position now to crush canola,” said Don Roberts, analyst for Canolainsight.com. “It means they can ship canola meal into the U. S., and you get a better margin doing that than dumping it in the domestic market.”
The restrictions were in place against the Hamilton plant since September 2009. A Bunge spokeswoman was not available to comment.
Shipping restrictions remain in place against Bunge’s Canadian canola plants in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, and Altona, Manitoba. Two ADM Agri Industries plants and one owned by Viterra Inc. also are on the FDA’s import-alert list due to salmonella concerns.
Salmonella can cause foodborne illness in humans. However, canola meal is shipped to the United States for use in livestock feed, especially in the California dairy industry.
The FDA has said it has long applied a zero-tolerance policy to salmonella in imported products. However, Canadian canola industry officials say standards have been more strictly enforced since an outbreak of foodborne illness last year in the United States.
Shipments to the United States, Canada’s biggest export market for canola meal, are down 39 per cent at about 936,000 tonnes from August through May of the 2009-10 crop year, compared with a year earlier, but volumes have increased sharply to Asia and Mexico, according to Statistics Canada.
Canada exported roughly 1.6 million tonnes of canola meal from August through May, down 4.5 per cent.
In December, the FDA lifted salmonella-based restrictions against Cargill Inc.
However, there is no industry-wide solution to the problem yet, said one industry source.
Canadian plants have tried a variety of ways to get rid of salmonella – which they say is found virtually everywhere – including heating canola meal with steam and adding mould-inhibiting chemicals, the source said.