ARCHIVED - Infectious Salmon Anaemia Investigation in Nova Scotia

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) top priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

That is why the CFIA would like to clarify some of the information that has been circulating about the Agency's response to infectious salmon anaemia (ISA).

Recent media coverage has suggested that the Agency changed its approach to managing ISA.

This is not the case.

The CFIA's approach remains focused on containing ISA. Our response actions are guided by science, and are consistent with recommendations from the World Organisation for Animal Health.

When ISA is suspected, the CFIA initiates response activities. The precise response measures that are taken depend on the risk factors associated with the situation, and consider animal health, animal welfare, public health and biosecurity parameters.

It's important to note that cases of ISA are known to occur in the waters off New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. In fact, it was first detected in Atlantic waters as early as 1996.

The following outlines the CFIA's investigation, and specifically the decision to process fish from this facility.

When ISA was first suspected at the Nova Scotia facility in mid-June, the CFIA immediately quarantined the facility. At that time, the company also made a responsible business decision to pre-emptively euthanize fish from two pens in which illness had been observed. This action was taken minimize the potential spread of disease.

The CFIA closely examined the health of the remaining fish at the facility and, in general, observed very few clinical signs of illness among those fish.

Based on those observations and an assessment of other risk factors, such as the proximity to other aquaculture facilities and the known occurrence of ISA in Nova Scotia waters, it was determined that it was not necessary to order the destruction of the remaining fish.

During this time, the quarantine remained in place and the CFIA regularly monitored fish health at the facility. Again, very few signs of illness were observed during this period.

ISA poses no human health or food safety risk.

A study led by the European Union in 2000 concluded that there is no reason to regard ISA as a zoonosis, and that there is no evidence of a risk to humans.

As well, the World Organisation for Animal Health does not consider ISA to be zoonotic, and recognizes that fish fillets or steaks – fresh or frozen – packaged for the retail trade can be traded safely from countries regardless of their ISA status.

Since ISA poses no risk to people, the CFIA allows fish from an affected facility to be processed under a CFIA-issued licence.

This policy is not new.

Such a licence would only be issued once the CFIA has received, reviewed and approved all involved facilities' standard operating procedures, to ensure bio-containment and appropriate management of waste products.

All fish processed at federally registered establishments for human consumption are inspected in accordance with the Fish Inspection Regulations. Fish that are not fit for human consumption are not permitted to enter the food chain.

Finally, the CFIA has received no indication from its US counterparts that processed fish will not be eligible for export. This product meets all requirements for export to the US, as there are no food safety issues associated with it.

Additional Information

Statement: United States Food and Drug Administration (PDF 241 kb)