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Halal Exporters Hit Hard by Mad Cow Disease

But business as usual at local Halal meat shops.

Editorial By: www.eat-halal.com Staff (Sunday, May 25, 2003)


Last week, Canada reported its first case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or Mad Cow Disease in over a decade. This has brought on a barrage of import bans on Canadian beef from an ever-growing list of countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, and South Korea.

The Canadian beef industry has been hit hard by the import bans. Exports make the bulk of Canadian beef sales, and production at Canada’s beef processing plants – including Halal beef operations – has dropped substantially. Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not stopped production at any beef processing plant, many beef operations have come to a standstill and have laid off their employees, simply because there is nowhere to send their products due to the import bans.

Abdulazizi Quraishi, the owner and president of Edmonton-based Al-Noor Halal Food Products, a supplier of livestock and finished meat products, describes the situation as “devastation”.

“Basically, the business has come to a standstill. We export livestock and box-ready beef, and goat and lamb as well, and everything has come to a standstill. It’s not just affecting me personally with the business, (but) as well as my suppliers and farmers who supply me with livestock,” said Mr. Quraishi, whose company sells 95% of its products in the United States. 35% to 45% of Al-Noor’s products are beef products.

The products that were destined for the United States are now sitting in storage.

“We’re trying to have them utilized in the local market as much as we can, but the local market is a glut, so eventually it’s going to end up in the freezers, and once it’s frozen, it’s not as good of a product.”

Mr. Quraishi’s live lamb and sheep aren’t making it across the border either, because they can be potential carriers of the disease, and he is pessimistic that the issue will be resolved quickly.

“It won’t be a short-term thing, because as they have quarantined another few farms in British Columbia, so they’re getting to the bottom of it…it’s going to take at least two or three weeks before I think this will all be resolved.”

In Guelph, Ontario, Better Beef was reported to have laid off 75 to 100 people shortly after the imposing of the import bans. The Halal beef processing plant is still operational, but is only producing for the domestic market.

“They (Better Beef) have cut down on production, and business-wise, it is affecting operations. But as far as Mad Cow Disease is concerned, the government is well positioned to make sure whatever goes into the slaughtering plant is safe. There is Halal slaughter going on, but production has been cut down. Insha-Allah, hopefully next week, it will go back to full capacity,” said Ehsan Sairally, director of IFANCA Canada, the Halal certification organization that certifies Better Beef.

Business as usual at local Halal shops

Despite all the hardships faced by the exporters, it seemed to be business as usual at Halal shops across Canada on Saturday. eat-halal.com contacted Halal meat shops in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Cornwall, Ontario, and all had Halal beef available for sale and none reported any price fluctuations.

Reports from Montreal and Toronto also confirmed that Halal beef was readily available.

Most Halal shops receive their meat from provincial processing plants. Since provincial processing plants and slaughterhouses are not allowed to export products, they are not affected by the import bans. Only federally-approved meat plants are allowed to export products to foreign countries.

No need to avoid Canadian beef – yet

The CFIA has not yet advised consumers to avoid Canadian beef and beef products, because they “have no reason at this point to believe that there is a risk to human health.”

“We are working closely with our partners to gather additional information. Given that the cattle get the disease by eating contaminated feed and there is a feed ban in place, the probability of having more infected animals is very low,” reads a notice on the CFIA’s web site (www.inspection.gc.ca).

Rizanoor Ferouz agrees. He’s a food technologist with 8 years experience in the Canadian meat industry. He sees no reason to avoid Canadian beef at the moment, however, he thinks this is a wake-up call for Muslims to start “supporting the drive to go back towards what’s right”.

“I think the whole thing with Mad Cow and the whole practices that we have here, for us, as Muslims, reminds us of supporting the drive to go back towards what was right; supporting the people who feed properly and supporting the people who slaughter properly. I think this whole thing is a wake-up call for us to support movements like organic,” said Mr. Ferouz.

Mr. Ferouz stresses the need to remind people that while they can eat the Halal beef sold these days, it is up to the consumer to demand that animals not be fed feed made from the waste of other animals, and instead be grown organically.

Mad Cow Disease not contagious

Contrary to what people may think, Mad Cow Disease and its human variant are not contagious and cannot be spread from person-to-person.

The human variant of BSE (Mad Cow Disease) is not contagious, meaning it doesn’t spread by person-to-person contact, unlike SARS. The chance of getting the disease depends on consumption of the meat from the infected animal, so there is no need for ‘masks’, ‘isolation’, and ‘quarantine’ of humans.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 125 cases of vCJD have been reported in the world (as of April 2, 2002).

Concerns, ideas, and suggestions can all be sent directly to the eat-halal.com’s editor at editor@eat-halal.com

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