It's all in the
of Article:† http://www.meatnews.com/news/beyond_stories.asp?ArticleID=101325
Bioniche's E. coli vaccine edges
into a tough market
(MEATPOULTRY.com, April 03,
by Steve Bjerklie
In exultation after
helping his fellow Ghostbusters defeat the evil god Gozer, Winston
Zedmore declares, "We have the tools, we have the talent!"
Bioniche Life Sciences, a Canadian company that has developed the first
commercially available cattle vaccine against E. coli O157:H7,
might be able to make the same claim. What Bioniche doesnít have, through
no fault of its own, is the timing.
The vaccine has been
available in Canada since approval by the Canadian government last
October, and it will probably receive conditional licensing in the U.S.
sometime this year. But Rick Culbert, who heads the companyís food safety
division, admitted to MEATPOULTRY.com that current market conditions in
the cattle industry have slowed the vaccineís acceptance. "We are
enjoying some market penetration, but thereís no question that since itís
a new cost input, itís an issue for some producers," he said.
In some ways the
Canadian beef industry is still feeling the impact of the closure of the
U.S. border in May 2003 when a BSE-infected bovine was discovered in
Alberta, which helped spur a decline in Canadian beef-packing capacity.
Moreover, both the beef and hog industries north of the border were hard
hit last year by an unfavorable Canadian dollar-U.S. dollar value ratio.
Factors such as high feedgrain costs that have impacted livestock
production on both sides of the border have also hurt margins.
Still, the vaccine
is becoming a presence in the Canadian market. "Typically, the early
adopters have been affiliated with a brand," Culbert commented.
"The vaccine is an extra safety measure for them." Yet
meatpackers, he noted, have not yet rushed to pay for the product.
"For the most part, packers prefer in-plant microbial controls.
Theyíve expressed, as an industry, that since theyíve borne the cost of a
lot of microbial load-reduction technologies in their plants, itís time
for other segments to do their part."
The vaccine can be
used on cattle as young as four months, he said, with an additional dose
or two injected later. Three doses cost approximately C$10. Culbert said
the vaccine isnít a replacement for other livestock-management practices
but a complement to them. The vaccine works by blocking colonization of a
bovineís intestines by E. coli O157:H7. "It offers a tool to
address the E. coli problem at the source that hasnít been
available before," Culbert said. "This strain of E. coli
is invisible on the farm. The vaccine is the most effective way we know
to combat E. coli right where it begins." However, he
cautions that any vaccine "isnít an absolute control mechanism. But
they can be very, very effective tools."
licensing in the U.S. is pending on Bionicheís arrangements to
manufacture the vaccine in the U.S.
Culbert said heís
optimistic about the vaccineís eventual widespread use throughout the
North American cattle industry. "Itís a function of time," he
told MEATPOULTRY.com. "Inevitably, consumers demand what is
reasonable to assure the safety of food, of beef." He said Canadian
public-health officials have been "very supportive" of
Bionicheís development of the vaccine. While he doesnít expect to see
label declarations on packages of fresh beef indicating that the meat
came from livestock vaccinated against E. coli, "I would say
that beef from these cattle might command a premium in the market as an
element of the entire value proposition the store is offering, especially
with identity brands with traceback in place," he commented.