Inspectors saw enough to close plant

Lesions, lameness and diarrhea were the signs that led to the immediate closure of Olymel’s hog plant in Red Deer early last week, says a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Lesions, lameness and diarrhea were the signs that led to the immediate closure of Olymel’s hog plant in Red Deer early last week, says a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The plant and adjoining loading facility, operated by Western Hog Exchange, were evacuated and scrubbed down early June 21 after inspectors noticed the suspicious signs among a group of hogs shipped from a farm in Saskatchewan.

CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier said from her office in Ottawa that the signs were consistent with foot and mouth disease, a highly communicable and fatal infection that attacks cloven-hoofed animals.

Foot and mouth was ruled out in tests performed at a provincial lab in Edmonton and at the CFIA’s lab in Winnipeg.

Gauthier said on Monday that inspectors had found the signs among 10 to 20 per cent of the hogs from that particular shipment. The farm itself was also inspected and no signs of foot and mouth disease were discovered, Gauthier said late last week.

While the disease was ruled out and the plant reopened on Wednesday, there was a tremendous impact on the plant itself as well as the people, farms and businesses associated with it.

Workers, including 1,300 people directly employed in the plant, were sent home after their boots and vehicles had been disinfected.

Truck loads of market-ready hogs were diverted to Western Hog Exchange assembly yards in Lethbridge, Balzac and Morinville where they were held until the plant could be reopened. Farmers were asked to hold back their normal shipments.

Those costs are being tallied and industry leaders will analyze the closure to determine whether any changes are needed, said producer representative Jim Haggins, chairman of Alberta Pork.

bkossowan@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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