The US Food and Drug Administration shut down imports from an Alberta crushing plant because of salmonella bacteria in the product.
On April 1, the FDA has added a red flag to ADM Agri- Industries' Lloydminster facility in Alberta province, making it the sixth Canadian facility since September to have its shipments stopped at the border.
"It's a huge chunk of our market," Dave Hickling, vice-president of utilization for the Canola Council of Canada, said Monday, "and a lot of dollars, at roughly CAN$250 (€186) a tonne into the US."
Canada is the world's top exporter of canola, a rapeseed variety, prized for its oil content. More than 75% of Canada's canola meal, about 1.8 million tonnes per year, is exported to the United States and used primarily as animal feed by dairy farmers.
Exports to the United States of canola meal have dropped by as much as 45%, or 800,000 tonnes, since last year as rules around the bacterium tightened.
Forms of salmonella that don't cause illness are commonly detected on canola meal. And while an alert does not prohibit imports, it makes it virtually impossible to ship south of the border, Hickling said.
ADM Agri-Industries has the Lloydminster production line after receiving the US notice, and cleaned it extensively. The company has conducted internal testing, and "is working with the FDA to address the issue," according to a company spokesman Monday.
Discussions on ADM's Windsor, Ontario, crushing plant are ongoing since the facility was given an alert status mid-December.
Increased concerns about food safety in the U.S. have led to more stringent interpretations of regulations on salmonella bacterium in canola meal and higher numbers of import alerts being issued.
The industry agrees regulations should be in place and observed, but is frustrated by the lack of clarity around being issued a clean bill of healthy, according to insiders.
It can take more than six months to have an alert removed, a lengthy process culminating with five consecutive shipments being granted a clean bill of health via third-party results before a facility is taken off the list, according to the FDA website.