It’s Canada: how to make love in a canoe and shit in the woods

Canada is rich in parks and trails – but not all of them are equipped with washroom facilities.

maxresdefaultOf the 24 nature reserves in Ontario, for example, only two have outhouses. A third has a port-a-potty, but only in the summer months. “Otherwise you’re using the backwoods,” said Megan Anevich, nature reserves coordinator at Ontario Nature.

Leave No Trace Canada, a non-profit organization that promotes outdoor ethics, encourages campers and hikers to travel the backcountry in a responsible manner. One of their seven principles details how to properly dispose of waste – human waste – when camping.

Improper waste disposal can lead to the pollution of water sources and spreading of bacteria and disease.

Beyond the environmental and health concerns, hiking past bits of toilet paper isn’t the picture of nature most are hoping to Instagram. Family dogs accompanying you on the camping trip can also get into improperly disposed of waste.

One of the best bets for disposing of human waste properly is to bury it in a “cathole.”

With a small shovel or garden trowel, dig a hole at least 200 feet away (or around 70 adult paces) away from water, trails and campsites. Dig the hole six to eight inches deep and four to six inches wide. Once you’ve finished your business, cover the hole with soil, leaves and sticks so animals don’t get in there.

In some places you may be required to “pack out” your poop. In these cases you may want to employ the “poop burrito” method of packing out, which involves wrapping your feces in toilet paper, placing that in a ziplock bag, and packing it out in a Tupperware container.

If you find yourself without toilet paper, fear not, “natural” toilet paper is abundant in the woods.

Options for natural toilet paper include certain types of leaves, smooth rocks, sand or snow.

Serve burgers, not hockey pucks; food safety and thermometers

I may have first said that about 15 years ago.

Rob Mancini writes that food safety types have always advocated for the use of thermometers to determine if a food product has reached the required temperature to inactivate pathogens.

 mancini.jun.14This leads to less barfing.

Different types of foods require different temperatures to kill pathogens; don’t memorize the numbers, just know where to reference them. Be careful with poultry because Canada requires a higher temperature than the States, 85°C (185°F) and 74°C (165°F) respectively. Consistency is hard to attain….

Canada Beef and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education have launched a campaign to save Canadians from eating hockey pucks this summer.

“All too often the humble hamburger is cooked beyond tasty recognition,” says Joyce Parslow, a professional home economist with Canada Beef. “A food thermometer is a quick and very effective way of knowing just when your burger is done. There is no more guessing, which means hockey pucks can stay on the ice and burgers can be enjoyed all summer long.”

The two groups are encouraging Canadians to share a photo of themselves

This is my beautiful wife cooking a roasted chicken and using a digital tip sensitive thermometer to ensure the final internal temperature has reached 74°C (165°F).

Temperature guidelines for all foods can be found at befoodsafe.ca.

Strengthening vet oversight of antimicrobial use in food animals: reducing antibiotics in meat — Part II

Ron Doering, former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and current counsel in the Ottawa offices of Gowlings (Ronald.doering@gowlings.com), reports with part II of his take on antimicrobiasl in food animal production:

While the medical commu­nity recognizes that the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in hu­mans is a potential disaster for humanity and that it is the overuse of antimicrobi­als in human medicine that is the largest contributor, there is a broad consensus that the use of antibiotics in animals contributes to the problem, though the scale is still unclear. This uncertainty is due mainly to a failure to adequately control and monitor the use. Health Canada (HC) lacks the authority to control and monitor use because the practice of veterinary medicine falls under provincial juris­diction. Recognizing that almost all practical efforts to reduce the level of antibiotics in meat depend on the more active participation of veterinarians, HC announced recently that it wanted “to develop options to strengthen the veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food animals.”

44755363What can veterinarians and their provincial regulatory licensing bodies do now to reduce the threat of AMR? Here are four suggestions:

1. Enhance awareness among members .

While the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has developed vol­untary Prudent Use Guide­lines, I’m told that many vets are hardly aware of the issue and may not even know of the Guidelines. Concerned enough about this, Ontario’s regulatory body, the Col­lege of Veterinarians of Ontario, just an­nounced that it was launching a project to study the use of antibiotics among food animal veterinarians and to determine if they use the CVMA’s Guidelines in daily practice. Quebec requires a manda­tory day-long AMR program and a test. All provinces should follow Quebec and develop mandatory continuing education programs on antimicrobial stewardship.

2. Fill the regulatory gaps.

As long as vets continue to prescribe off label use and the use of Active Pharma­ceutical Ingredients (APIs) in production medicine, it’s impossible to know the level of antibiotic use. Own Use Importation (OUI) by animal owners is another avenue for which use information is un­available. As one recent report stressed: “The gap in reliable usage data makes it difficult to state with confidence which antimicrobials are used, in what quantities, and for what purposes.” The recent critical assessment by a group of experts, titled “Stewardship of antimicrobial drugs in animals in Canada: How are we doing in 2013?” (Canadian Veterinary Journal, March 2014), highlighted the absolute importance of improving Canada’s monitoring of antimicrobial usage.

3. Conflict of interest issue.

This issue has been flagged by several reports going back to the landmark McEwen Report of 2002. Veterinarians obtain income from the profitable sale of antimicrobials. Decoupling veterinary prescribing from dispensing raises several issues because the current veterinary prac­tice business model is based on an income stream from antimicro­bial sales. Veterinarians should lead a dialogue on this important issue that clearly needs closer examination.

ab.res.prudent.may.144. Antibiotics for disease prevention.

The real issue is not the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or the treating of disease, but whether they should continue to be used for disease prevention. While some antibiotics of very high importance to human health should only be used to treat infection, there are several arguments that some of high or medium importance to human health (what HC calls Category ll and lll, for example tetracyclines) should still, with closer veterinarian oversight, be used for disease prevention. Because major retailers, processors and consumers increasingly demand meat with “raised without antibiotic” claims, the marketplace is forcing changes in practice. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that while there are risks to using antimicrobials in animal production, there are also risks with non-use.

Two-thirds of animal diseases are zoo­notic, meaning the disease is transferable to humans. For this and other reasons, I have been a long-time proponent of strengthening the connections between human and animal medicine — the concept known as One Health. In this context, AMR represents an historic opportunity for vets to step up and provide greater leadership. 

Asparagus farmer: he’s not heavy, he’s my cuz

Between the anguished cries in the fetal position after his beloved Boston Bruins were bumped out of the Stanley Cup playoffs (that’s ice hockey to Australians), my cousin, Tim Barrie, manages to carry on the family tradition and farm asparagus.

It’s a late spring in southern Ontario (Cambridge area, to be specific), but Tim says the flavor is great and Tim is always finding the bright side.

tim.barrie.asparagusAnd he knows enough to practice good food safety.

According to the K-W Record, green and sweet asparagus is what spring is all about his 25-acre farm off Kings Road.

Blame a hard snowy winter and a wet spring for a tardy crop at Barrie’s Asparagus Farm, but the good news is it’s lip-smacking luscious and sweet-pea scrumptious.

Two years ago, drought made for a bitterly disappointing harvest, said 52-year-old Tim Barrie. Last year was a great crop for quantity. This year, quality binds every $3-a-pound bunch.

“Taste-wise, it’s as good as I can remember,” Barrie said from beneath his favorite spoked-number-four Bobby Orr ball cap.

This asparagus operation goes back four decades on this former cattle farm. The future is asparagus, Barrie’s father David was told by his father-in-law Homer — an Alliston asparagus grower.

David, who still trims the grass at the farm (and still plays pickup hockey at 80- years-old), listened and became a spear plucker.

His son Tim and his wife Libby run the fields of green and the farmhouse shop now.

Their grown daughters — Mallory, Emily and Hannah — and son Will, 13, help out too.

asparagu.barrieThere are only about 100 asparagus operations in Ontario because it’s labor-intensive. Barrie has 10 locally hired pickers harvesting his 24 acres every day until Canada Day. The spears are spun right into the farmhouse shop and put on sale within an hour of picking off the side of Kings Road.

On Saturday mornings, the parked cars fill up the country roundabout in front of the house, Barrie said. They come for the fresh asparagus. They may leave with pickled asparagus and asparagus barbecue sauce, too. Or asparagus ravioli and asparagus soap. Or asparagus salsa. A fresh batch of that salsa, bottled with a day of picking, is firehouse hot.

They plant strawberries too, along with rhubarb, sweet corn and pumpkins.

They sell some kettle chips, named Spud’s Finest in honour of Barrie’s mother Miriam (she’s my mom’s sister – dp). She grew up on a potato farm before her father turned to, of course, asparagus.

Ron Doering: reducing antibiotics in meat

Ron Doering, the first and only president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency anyone can remember, and current counsel in the Ottawa offices of Gowlings (Ronald.doering@gowlings.com), writes in his monthly Food Law column that:

Health Canada (HC) and the Canadian Animal Health In­stitute (CAHI), the trade asso­ciation representing Canadian veterinary drug manufacturers, are to be com­mended for their decision on April 10 to follow the American initiative to address the growing concern over antimicrobial resistance in humans by introducing measures to promote the more prudent use of antimicrobials in animal produc­tion. HC announced its intention (1) “to work towards the removal of growth promotion and/or production claims of medically important antimicrobial drugs” and (2) “to develop options to strengthen the veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food animals.”

ab.res.prudent.may.14Contrary to many mainstream media reports, this does not mean that Canada is phasing out antibiotic use in meat production. Moreover, both initiatives face several difficult barriers to implementa­tion. This month we look at the difficulties associated with the first proposal, leaving next month for an analysis of why the oversight role by veterinarians must be strengthened if we are ever going to make real progress on what may be the most serious public health problem of our time.

First some law. The licensing and sale of antimicrobials fall under the jurisdic­tion of the federal government and its Food and Drugs Act, but the authority to manage their “use” lies with the provinces. The provinces also have the exclusive authority over the practice of veterinary medicine. What this means is that HC can require that a vet drug no longer have “growth promotion” as an indicated use on its label, but under the current regime it has limited power to actually determine how the drugs are used.

The issue of preventing growth promotion claims, and whether such a step will actually make a real difference, is a complex one. To begin with, most antibiotics are not actually used directly for growth promotion purposes but rather for disease prevention and control, what is often called disease prophylaxis. Removal of growth promotion claims will not prevent drugs to claim and be used for disease prevention. Farmers can continue to give their animals low doses of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. The Public Health Agency of Canada, estimating that 90 per cent of the medication on farms is used for disease prevention, argues that antimicro­bials should not be used in this way and should be “limited to treating infection and not long-term mass medication for growth promotion or guarding against disease.” Others argue that there is insuf­ficient science to support the conclusion that low doses given to animals contrib­ute to antimicrobial resistance in humans and that outlawing the practice would result in more animal disease and the need for more drugs for disease treat­ment, possibly exacerbating the problem of antimicrobial resistance. When the science is uncertain, policy development is always difficult.

What is clear is that the proposal will not even apply to a large amount of anti­biotic use because of regulatory loopholes that result in part from our jurisdiction­ally fragmented regulatory framework. Our provinces still allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs for purposes not indicated on the product label (extra-label use). Unapproved drugs may be used on ani­mals because it is still legal for drugs to be imported for livestock production “own use” (OUI) if the drug is not offered for resale and it is not a prescrip­tion drug. As well, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) can still be imported by livestock producers to be mixed into feed on farm. None of these unregulated antibiotics are covered by the proposal. The latest Canadian Medical Association Journal contains a critical assessment of Canada’s performance in enhancing antimicrobial stewardship in agriculture and veterinary medicine, but it does state that HC has recently proposed measures to address OUI and API so, hopefully, reforms may be imminent.

As we shall see next month, none of the barriers described above can be adequately tackled without Canada’s veterinarians and their provincial regula­tory bodies taking a greater leadership role in combating the serious and growing problem of antimicrobial resistance in humans. Nowhere is the concept of One Health more compelling.

Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger resistance

Canadian chicken farmers are putting an end to controversial egg injections, which provided the world with a “textbook” example of the perils of mass medication.

By injecting eggs at hatcheries with ceftiofur, a medically important antibiotic, the farmers triggered the rise of resistant microbes that showed up in both chickens and in Canadians creating a “major” public health concern.

double-facepalm1The case  – documented by federal and provincial sleuths who track microbes at farms, slaughterhouses and retail meat counters – is held up as powerful evidence of resistant superbugs moving from farm to fork.

“It is going to be in medical textbooks for as long as there are textbooks around,” says John Prescott, a professor with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

On May 15 injecting eggs with ceftiofur will be banned as part of a new antibiotics policy adopted by Chicken Farmers of Canada, representing the 2,700 poultry farmers across the country.

“The industry has gone ahead and done this voluntarily, but it is not a voluntary program,” says Steve Leech, the association’s national programs manager.  He says the ban is mandatory with penalties and fines for violators.

While the ban is better late than never, Prescott says government should have stopped the injections years ago.

Microbe trackers working with the Public Health Agency of Canada first reported in 2003 that they were picking up higher rates of ceftiofur resistance in Quebec.  In 2004, they reported resistance was just as high in Ontario “in both humans and chicken.”

A strain of bacteria called Salmonella Heidelberg, that can cause food poisoning, had armed itself with the biochemical machinery needed to resist ceftiofur. Ceftiofur belongs to a class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins, which are often used on hard-to-cure infections in people.

FunkyChickenHiThe scientists soon linked the rise of the resistant Salmonella to chicken hatcheries that were injecting  ceftiofur into eggs prophylactically to try prevent infections in chicks.

The way Canadian hatcheries were allowed to keep using ceftiofur highlights the “inability” of  Canadian health officials to stop inappropriate use of  antibiotics, says Prescott.

“There was clear evidence of an adverse effect on public health,” he says, but dealing with the issue fell between the “gaps” in federal and provincial regulations.

Ceftiofur was never approved by Health Canada for use in chickens or eggs but hatcheries used it “extra-label,” which falls under the provincial jurisdiction.

1-in-8 new Canadian estimate of annual foodborne illness rate

For years it was 1-in-4.

One out of every four people would get sick from the food and water they consumed every year in the U.S., culminating in the 76 million sick people per year.

burden.foodborne.reportingThe Canadians and Australians eventually did their own estimates and came up with 1-in-3.

Then the Americans revised their number to 1-in-6, or 48 million people barfing per year.

Now the Canadians have revised their number to 1-in-8.

This doesn’t mean food is safer or worse, just that better estimates make more accurate estimations – and these are still vast estimations.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year roughly one-in-eight Canadians (or four million people) get sick due to domestically acquired food-borne diseases. This estimate provides the most accurate picture yet of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, and parasites are causing the most illnesses in Canada, as well as estimating the number of foodborne illnesses without a known cause.

In general, to be captured in a Canadian surveillance system, a sick individual must: seek care; have a sample (stool, urine or blood) requested; and submit a sample for testing. In addition, the sample must be tested with a test capable of identifying the causative agent; and finally the positive test result must be reported to the surveillance system. Surveillance systems only capture a small portion of total illnesses given all these necessary steps (i.e. there is under-diagnosis and under-reporting taking place). 

Ottawa quiet on reason for Mexico’s beef inspections last year

In the interest of open and honest communication, no one from the federal government will say why Mexican officials quietly inspected six Canadian slaughterhouses last year, part of an audit related to what one company called a border “issue.”

The Globe and Mail got confirmation of the inspections as Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes his first official visit to Mexico. Representatives of Canada’s beef industry meat_and_you_simpsons(2)are among those who have joined Mr. Harper on the trip. Industry and government officials were reluctant to discuss the unpublicized inspections, but one major beef producer, Cargill Inc., said six facilities were inspected by Mexican officials in October as part of a “beef plant audit,” including Cargill’s beef plant in Guelph, Ont. The reason remains unclear.

“This situation was not related to food safety,” Cargill spokesman Michael Martin said, referring questions to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The agency confirmed inspections took place, but gave few details.

Canada is disappointed with those who don’t follow food safety rules, so they are going to make those who disappoint really, really pay.

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced the intention to introduce new penalties for businesses that fail to respect Canadian meat safety canada.south.parkrequirements.

“Consumers want a strong and reliable food inspection system on which they can depend to provide safe food,” said Minister Ambrose. “Introducing these new penalties demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that Canada’s stringent food safety requirements are being followed.”

These fines, known as Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs), provide Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors with an additional enforcement option when working with the meat industry. For example, they may be applied if a company withholds information, such as a positive E. coli test result, or records that are needed as part of a food safety investigation, or if a company is regularly identified for not complying with requirements.

“Administrative Monetary Penalties are an important element of a modern and effective inspection system,” said Dr. Martine Dubuc, Chief Food Safety Officer for Canada and vice-president, science, CFIA. “They provide an additional option for dealing with the small number of food producers that fail to follow federal food safety regulations.”

6 sick: federal health types publicly absent in Canadian E. coli burger outbreak

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced late Wednesday night that certain Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers were being recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

They said people were sick but wouldn’t say how many; that’s up to either the e.coli.O157.belmont.oct.13Public Health Agency of Canada or Health Canada (who knows the difference).

The silence has been deafening.

However, a spokesman for Ontario’s health ministry told the Weyburn Review there have been six confirmed cases of illness in that province associated with the beef in question. Of the six people, four were hospitalized; of the four, one is still in hospital. All are recovering, the ministry said.