by the Halifax Herald, May 26,
food safety rules needed for seals
By DEBBIE MACKENZIE
can become very sick from eating seal meat if the seal has an
infection that can be spread to humans and the meat has not
been well-cooked. Called zoonotic diseases, these sorts of infections
cause much sickness and suffering in developing countries, but
are practically unknown in Canada. That is because strict precautions
are taken in the care of livestock and in food processing. Canadians
are more likely to catch a zoonotic illness from a wild animal
than from their food.
in Atlantic Canada have recently been found to be carrying dangerous
zoonotic microbes, but Canadian seal processors have not been
ordered to use standard slaughterhouse precautions against spreading
these "meat" diseases to human consumers.
stringent "meat hygiene" rules, raw seal meat is currently exported
from Canada to Asian markets, as are raw seal oil capsules,
which are also being sold in Canada. Clearly, consumers of these
seal products risk catching zoonotic diseases. Why is this allowed?
It seems it is because Canada pretends that seals are fish.
seal products are approved for sale if they meet simpler food
safety rules written for cold-blooded fish. Marine mammals actually
are classified as "fish" under Canadian law. However, making
seals fish on paper does not change the laws of nature, which
gave seals, humans and other mammals a common susceptibility
to a host of dangerous infections.
infections? Brucellosis, for one. Brucellosis is a serious bacterial
infection that causes abortion in animals and chronic illness
in humans, but a disease virtually unknown in Canada because
our farm livestock is officially brucellosis-free. But brucellosis
has been found in our seals.
farm animals are also free of trichinosis, a painful disease
caused by worms that work their way from the gut into the muscles
of people who eat undercooked infected meat. Pigs, bears and
rats are naturally susceptible to trichinosis, and so are seals.
Trichinosis was recently found in Arctic seals and walrus, and
people caught trichinosis from eating them. Atlantic Canadian
seal meat should really, therefore, be checked for trichinosis.
But this is not being done, because seal meat is handled as
if it was fish.
who eat undercooked seal meat might catch another parasitic
disease, toxoplasmosis. Most people will not become very ill
from this one, but it can cause severe birth defects in unborn
babies if pregnant women ingest this parasite.
list can go on.
government scientists who found the seal diseases must have
been dismayed at their findings. They must have realized that
more bad news is the last thing needed by our fishing industry,
now with hopes pinned on expanded sales of seals for human consumption.
But still, the public and the fishermen should have been warned.