CFIA Position on the Domestic Use of Composted SRM

Issue

Due to concerns about the lack of disposal opportunities for SRM (specified risk materials), the cattle industry is proposing that the CFIA allow domestic use (residential homes and gardens) of composted SRM.

Background

The enhanced feed ban regulations prohibit the use of SRM in fertilizers or fertilizer supplements unless in accordance with a permit issued by the CFIA under the authority of the Health of Animals Regulations. To obtain a permit, each proposed use is evaluated on a case by case basis. Currently, the CFIA would not consider issuing a permit for the domestic use of composted SRM for the following reasons.

  1. SRM are certain cattle tissues capable of transmitting BSE. There is no human health risk assessment to indicate the absence of human health concerns associated with use of composted SRM domestically. To date, scientific evidence has not been able to demonstrate that composting destroys prions. Although domestic use would pose a negligible risk to livestock, there is a potential risk to humans via direct ingestion of the compost or of compost particles adhered to skin or plant material (e.g. carrots). Another potential route of exposure is by ingestion of prions that have been taken up by plants. It has been proven that bacteria are readily taken up by some plants (e.g. E. coli in lettuce) thus the uptake of prions by plants cannot be precluded or dismissed at this time. As a science-based regulator, the CFIA cannot change the policy on this issue without a risk assessment demonstrating that the use of composted SRM poses an acceptable risk to humans.
  2. Under the new regulations, permits are required for all handlers of SRM so that the CFIA may maintain control over this material. Composted SRM is still considered SRM; therefore every recipient of composted SRM would also require a permit. This level of oversight would likely prove too onerous for most domestic users.