Government of Saskatchewan
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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A Conceptual Comparative Analysis Between the British and Canadian Mad Cow Crisis: The Cost of Learning

Did the British BSE event have any influence over Canadian public policies related to food safety prior to the diagnosis of the first Canadian BSE case? As evidenced by the British and Canadian BSE crises, the emergence of complex diseases in the food chain around the world has made food safety policy even more important. A comparison of the events that occurred within both the British and Canadian beef industries forms the basis of the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy’s 35th Public Policy Paper, "A Conceptual Comparative Analysis Between the British and the Canadian Mad Cow Crisis: The Cost of Learning" by Sylvain Charlebois.

Charlebois explains, “the crisis that hit the Canadian cattle industry could have been prevented, since the cause of BSE itself was human-induced. The industry could have learned from the British BSE crisis and implemented fundamental changes”. It is worth noting that “the first and only significant change in Canada, before 2003, was the ban of the practice of rendering ruminants for cattle feed in Canada in 1997…ruminant feed is still readily available on the market, and violations of the ban were reported”. The author asserts that “the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has proven through the BSE ordeal that it does not have the primary capacity or skill to deal with international trade issues”. This is complicated further by the conflict in the CFIA’s mandate to both protect food safety and industry interests. Charlebois recognizes that expanded information, shared accountability, and cost issues have triggered many debates within food safety and supply chains. For these and other obvious reasons, food safety issues have become a premise for conflicts between government departments and supply chain members within and between countries.


Sylvain Charlebois

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