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Biosecurity Audits of H5N2 Farms In Fraser Valley Withheld
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Author:  niman [ Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:33 am ]
Post subject:  Biosecurity Audits of H5N2 Farms In Fraser Valley Withheld

Media report cites withheld biosecurity reports on H5N2 confirmed farms

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Biosecurity is a major concern as producers try to steer clear of avian influenza. But poultry marketing boards are refusing to release biosecurity audits of farms after a recent outbreak in the Fraser Valley. They cite, in part, the potential for farmers to be targeted by animal rights activists. File photo.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Poultry+ind ... z3SXlHlFy1

Author:  niman [ Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Biosecurity Audits of H5N2 Farms In Fraser Valley Withhe

Poultry industry won’t release biosecurity audits after B.C. avian flu outbreak

Marketing boards say audits could make farms targets of animal rights activists

BY LARRY PYNN, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 22, 2015 8:18 PM

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Poultry industry won't release biosecurity audits after B.C. avian flu outbreak

Biosecurity is a major concern as producers try to steer clear of avian influenza. But poultry marketing boards are refusing to release biosecurity audits of farms after a recent outbreak in the Fraser Valley. They cite, in part, the potential for farmers to be targeted by animal rights activists. File photo.
VANCOUVER -- Poultry marketing boards are refusing to release biosecurity audits of farms after the avian flu outbreak in the Fraser Valley citing, in part, the potential for farmers to be targeted by animal rights activists.

Michel Benoit, general manager of the B.C. Turkey Marketing Board, said in a letter to The Vancouver Sun that the board won’t release the mandatory audit reports until it has “notified each grower of the request and has invited each grower to consent to the disclosure of all or any part of the record, or may make written representations to the board explaining why the information should not be disclosed.”

The board is opposed to releasing names and addresses, he said, arguing that information in the audits has been “supplied in confidence” and that disclosure of farmers’ specifics could expose them “unfairly to financial or other harm from animal rights activists and others.”

Benoit said there are about 45 turkey operations in the Fraser Valley and more than 300 poultry operations of all types in the valley.

The board decision comes despite the B.C. government emphasizing to marketing boards the importance of showing transparency to the public.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency first discovered the H5N2 strain of avian flu on a turkey farm in Abbotsford and a broiler breeder farm in Chilliwack on Dec. 1, 2014. By Dec. 17, it had spread to a total of 11 commercial poultry operations as far away as Langley, resulting in the deaths of 245,600 birds.

Neither the source of the flu nor how it spread between farms has been determined.

The Sun also asked Cheryl Davie, manager of strategic initiatives and analysis for the B.C. Chicken Marketing Board, to provide copies of their biosecurity audits. “We don’t share those audits,” she said. “We do have to protect personal information. That’s not something we would release.”

The Sun soon received an unsolicited call from an industry representative, Ray Nickel, president of the B.C. Poultry Association, who argued strongly against release of the audits. “That’s not public information,” he said, adding the marketing boards are the check and balance. “They’re all private businesses. ”

All manner of provincial audits and inspections are open to public scrutiny, from industries such as forestry to mom-and-pop restaurants. Audits for the latter are posted online by health authorities.

Nickel resists the same openness for poultry farmers, noting that farmers who have biosecurity issues and don’t come into compliance risk losing their licences to operate. “By default, you’d have to exit the industry. These are not taken lightly.”

Nickel said a “multitude of different things” may have caused the spread of avian flu. “One of those certainly could have been a biosecurity breach. But if that did happen, does that mean that our program is failing? No. I’d say the program has been successful.”

Davie, asked later why she had Nickel call The Sun, responded: “We do the auditing, but it’s an industry-led program. Those audits belong to the farmers. I’m not sure why you need this. I can’t see how it has anything to do with the public interest.”

Jim Collins, executive director of the province’s Farm Industry Review Board, said from Victoria he is leaving it to individual marketing boards to respond to The Sun’s request but noted his office has made it clear to the marketing boards that “transparency is of critical importance.”

He added that “regardless of who owns the audits, the boards as first-instance regulators are responsible for ensuring that their enforcement of mandatory biosecurity measures in the B.C. poultry industry is effective and appropriate.”

In 2009, the review board wrote to the turkey and chicken marketing boards, as well as the B.C. Broiler Hatching Egg Commission and B.C. Egg Marketing Board, stating: “While producers have been involved in creating biosecurity programs, responsibility regarding effective biosecurity regulation rests with the boards.”

In 2011, the review board wrote another letter, emphasizing that “boards and commissions must adopt transparent, accountable reporting.

“We look forward to your suggestions on how you will provide regular, transparent, accountable reporting on the biosecurity program to BCFIRB and other stakeholders (producers, processors, associations, government, and the public) going forward.”

Biosecurity audits became mandatory in the poultry industry following a major outbreak of avian flu in the Fraser Valley in 2004.

In the B.C. Poultry Association’s biosecurity reference guide of 2006, Nickel writes: “Biosecurity planning and implementation reduces the risk of infectious disease transfer within and among poultry flocks. Enhancing your farm’s biosecurity protects both your economic interest and that of the industry. Furthermore, it reduces the risk to public health that may result from certain poultry diseases.”

The biosecurity guide further states: “Because pathogenic organisms are microscopic, they are not visible to the naked eye. Yet they can be found in large numbers in dust, in water droplets suspended in the air, and in visible fecal contamination. Enough pathogenic organisms to be an infective dose can be contained in an invisible amount of contaminated material.

“Such a small amount of contaminated material can be on equipment, clothing, footwear, or, even hands. By this means, the disease can be carried from one flock to another.

“When it is necessary, controlled entry procedures are designed to prevent or minimize organisms from entering the area with visitors, equipment, and vehicles. This is achieved by removing any contaminated material by washing and, if necessary, disinfection.”

On Feb. 7, the CFIA also reported the discovery of H5N1 avian influenza at a non-commercial farm in Chilliwack. The H5N1 strain was found in wild birds in Washington state in January 2015.

When The Sun initially asked for copies of the biosecurity audits, Benoit provided sample copies of four audits. He argued that providing the remainder would be a time-consuming process. He later responded with a letter and said that because The Sun’s request for information “was made in writing, we are obliged to conduct ourselves in accordance” with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The Sun had not submitted a formal freedom-of-information request.

lpynn@vancouversun.com



Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Poultry+ind ... z3SXkvR4yE

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