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Canada to examine data on cloned food

Canadian consumers won't be buying meat and milk from cloned animals anytime soon, Health Canada officials said on Thursday.

Canadian consumers won't be buying meat and milk from cloned animals anytime soon, Health Canada officials said on Thursday.

William Yan of Health Canada's health products and food branch said officials with the federal agency are looking forward to examining the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's risk assessment draft, whichwas released Thursday.

But the agency's researchers will not allow food from cloned animals into the Canadian marketplace without having first performed exhaustive research, Yan said.

Current regulations forbid sale

"It's difficult to put a specific timeline on that, but the bottom line is that Health Canada is going to take our time in assessing the risk assessment from the U.S. FDA very carefully," Yan said.

Under current regulations, selling food from cloned animals is forbidden in Canada.

The U.S. FDA will accept public comments before it makes a final ruling late next year on whether food from cloned animals may be made available for sale.

Scientists with the FDA said Thursday that when cloned animals reached six to 18 months of age, it was almost impossible to distinguish them from animals that had been conventionally bred. FDA officials also said food from cloned animals will likely not be specially labelled.

If food from cloned livestock is eventually approved, Health Canada is also unlikely to require special labelling, Yan said.

"If the data shows that these cloned foods are not different from any other foods in the marketplace, then Health Canada would not require any labelling of these products," he said.

U.S. proposal raises ire of consumer group

The proposed no-labelling policy has raised the ire of some U.S. groups, which say consumers have a right to know what they are buying. Carol Tucker Foreman, of the Consumer Federation of America, on Thursday calledfor supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones.

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's said it plans to let customers know that its ice cream is not made from the milk of cloned cows.

"We want to make sure people are confident with what's in our pints," company spokesman Rob Michalak said. "We haven't yet landed on exactly how we want to express that publicly."

Jim Greenwood, president of the U.S. Biotechnology Industry, said many livestock producers already use different breeding practices, such as artificial insemination, without making that obvious.

"None of that information would be useful to consumers," Greenwood said.

With files from the Associated Press