* FDA policy to focus on some types of salmonella
* ADM, Viterra plants still face restrictions
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Canadian exports of canola meal to the United States have picked up in the current marketing year, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks to ease restrictions on imports of animal feed with salmonella bacteria.
The FDA posted a draft policy on its website last August that would limit its enforcement actions against animal feed shipments with salmonella to just a few types of the bacteria known to cause disease in animals and poultry, instead of flagging all shipments with salmonella.
It is unclear when the FDA's new policy takes effect, but Canadian canola meal shipments to the United States rose 17 percent from August through October, Statistics Canada says.
The FDA imposed shipping restrictions in the past two years against seven Canadian crushing plants whose canola meal exports contained salmonella, although only two plants are still on import-alert status.
Salmonella causes about 40,000 reported cases of food-borne illness in humans and kills 400 people in the United States annually. However, canola meal is shipped to the United States for use in feed for dairy cattle.
(For a factbox on salmonella, click: [ID:nN18226021])
The FDA's webpage outlining the changes still refers to the policy as a draft and it remains unclear when the new rule takes effect or whether it is in place. An FDA spokesperson was not available for comment.
The Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, which represents Richardson International, Cargill [CARG.UL], Archer Daniels Midland (ADM.N), Bunge (BG.N), Louis Dreyfus and Viterra VT.TO, supports the new policy, it said in a Dec. 29 letter to the FDA, as does the American Feed Industry Association.
More reliable access to the United States comes as the Canadian industry is on pace for a record year of crushing, creating more canola meal.
"It's unfortunate we had this issue with the U.S., (but) I'm really happy that it seems to be on the way of being resolved," said Dave Hickling, vice-president of utilization for the Canola Council of Canada.
"It's going to help the FDA, help the industry, it's going to allow more focus on the higher-risk areas which they should be focusing on."
Canada is the world's top exporter of canola, which is crushed for its oil and meal.
Canadian canola meal shipments to the United States fell nearly one-third to 1.2 million tonnes worth C$246 million (US$248.7 million) during the 2009/10 crop year, which ended on July 31.
Viterra and ADM plants are still under import restrictions and changes in enforcement will not affect the FDA's process of lifting measures already in place, Hickling said.
(To see FDA draft policy, click on: here (1 Canadian dollar=1.011 U.S. dollars) (Editing by Dale Hudson)