Mr. Speaker, every day of our lives we unknowingly take for granted benefits, advantages and opportunities that are inaccessible to most people in the world.
The quality and abundance of food that we eat is part of the exceptional benefits to which we often give little thought.
That explains why Canadians are surprised and worried about the recent discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly referred to as mad cow disease.
I completely understand this surprise and concern. We all know what anxiety this disease has already caused elsewhere in the world.
That is why I want to assure all Canadians that the Government of Canada, particularly the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is taking this situation very seriously.
We quickly took all the necessary measures in cooperation with the provincial authorities. I also want to assure Canadians and our trade partners that this was an isolated case, one animal out of more than 3.5 million animals that are slaughtered in Canada each year. The disease was detected in an animal and that animal was destroyed. It never entered the food chain.
We know that there is no such thing as zero risk, not even in science, but we know that under the circumstances, Canada has taken all necessary precautions and has acted promptly and properly.
For many years, Canada has enjoyed worldwide recognition for its food quality control system and, in particular, for its vigilance and effectiveness in the fight against BSE.
Since 1993, the last time a case of BSE was discovered in Canada, we have tested some 10,000 animals, which is double the recommended international standard. No other diseased animals have been identified.
Our inspection system is working very well. In particular, our beef is very reliable and its quality is recognized around the world.
I would also like to emphasize the excellent work being done every day by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which manages 14 inspection programs covering food, plants and animals in 18 regions.
The agency's role includes: enforcing the standards established by Health Canada regarding food hygiene and nutritional quality; establishing standards for the health of animals and plant protection; monitoring their application and enforcement; and providing inspection and regulatory enforcement services.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency employs 5,500 people to meet the demands of consumers and domestic and international markets. Its staff consists of many specialists: veterinarians, inspectors, systems specialists, support employees, financial officers, researchers and laboratory technicians.
The organization consists of four operational centres subdivided into 18 regional offices, 185 field offices including border crossings and 408 offices in non-governmental establishments such as slaughterhouses.
The agency also includes 22 laboratories and research institutions that offer scientific advice, design and implement new technologies, provide analysis and conduct research.
It is also worth mentioning that farmers and anyone who works in agriculture in Canada are among the most effective and conscientious in the world.
I would like to remind this House and all Canadians that we can still be very proud to live in a country that is the envy of the world for the quality of life that it continues to give us, including the excellent food that we eat.