A recently announced Health Canada document entitled, ‘Health Canada Guidance on Reducing the Risk of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs Produced in Canada’ is causing quite a stir in my neck of the woods. I checked out the document – actually read it in its entirety – over 20 pages. As a former egg producer and layer quota holder, the guidelines and recommendations included in the document weren’t new to me. In fact, it seemed to me that all of these guidelines were already being implemented and enforced. But then that was my perception. So imagine my surprise when a friend from within the egg industry tells me that this ‘new’ document from Health Canada is set to shut down many of the small local egg producers that have 100 or 500 birds – those without quota. I read the document again and couldn’t see why this document was being seen as a business-breaker for these small producers. I also read Jim Romahn’s blog posting in October (http://agri007.blogspot.ca/2013/10/small-flocks-exempt-from-egg-guidelines.html) where he had reported on this Health Canada document and stated that small producers are exempt from these guidelines. So I asked the million dollar question of my egg industry friend, “Who is telling you and these small egg producers that they are going to have to stop taking their eggs and having them washed and graded by a licensed, certified and regulated egg grading station?” Imagine my surprise – or really my lack of surprise! – when I’m told that it’s Egg Farmers of Ontario that is the source of this business-breaking news.
I followed up my investigation into the matter with a telephone call to the Guelph office of Health Canada and spoke to a representative there. I explained to him that this document was causing some concern for these small producers and a couple of the small local grading stations. He assured me that the intent of this document was not to put any small producers out of business. In fact he went on to give me a brief history of the document and stated that many, if not all of the suggestions for implementations were already addressed in current HAACP protocols. When I asked if this document would stop or prevent these small producers from taking their eggs to a local grading station for washing, grading and marketing, he promptly said ‘no’. He even suggested that EFO does not have the authority to stop any egg producer from taking their eggs to a licensed/regulated egg grading station. He also agreed with me when I said that it appeared to me that having these small producers pay a licensed, certified, and CFIA regulated grading station to wash and grade their eggs is a far better and safer solution than allowing the same producers to sell unwashed, ungraded eggs from their farm gate.
After my discussion with my egg industry friend, a small egg producer or two and the Health Canada representative, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem comes with Egg Farmers of Ontario representatives interpreting these ‘guidelines’ (note that these are ‘guidelines’ – not regulations) in a manner different from their intended purpose. Using this interpretation to ‘bully’ these small producers out of business is exactly what EFO wants. Harry Pelissero and his ‘Egg Police’ are once again pushing producers around, taking authority that is not theirs and causing many hard-working, well-intentioned small non-quota holding egg producers a great deal of anxiety and fear. I’m certainly not surprised – but shame on them. And who governs Egg Farmers of Ontario again? It doesn’t matter. Nothing is likely to change.