when the canadian health Coalition (CHC) called on the feds last month to ban carbadox, a veterinary drug used by pig farmers, and a known carcinogen, officials in the bureau of veterinary drugs stalled -- even while their own scientists were echoing the coalition's concerns.
But now, federal agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief has joined the chorus of voices calling for a ban as soon as possible.
In a letter sent to health minister Allan Rock in early May, that surfaced last week, Vanclief raises a number of concerns about the continued use of carbadox. He points out that the Europeans have banned the drug, which is used to hasten weight gain and treat intestinal ailments in pigs, while the Canada Pork Council, too, has called on farmers to stop using it.
But of particular concern, Vanclief writes, "is the limitations of the available detection methodologies" used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to screen for the potentially harmful drug in meat. Vanclief ends his letter by urging Rock "to proceed with regulatory action as quickly as possible."
Health Canada, however, doesn't seem to be in any hurry. Diane Kirkpatrick, who heads the bureau of veterinary drugs, has said the department may not have the authority to ban the drug immediately even if it wants to. "We would only take immediate action if it posed an immediate risk to health," she says.
CHC spokesperson Michael McBane says the ministry's reluctance to act immediately, especially in the face of Vanclief's letter, is alarming.
"What it reveals is that the government has stopped regulating," says McBane. He suggests that Vanclief's letter is a sign that the agriculture department, which regulates food inspection, is becoming more sensitive to public criticism. In the meantime, he advises against consuming pork products.