The Animal & Plant Health Agency raise awareness of the risk of African Swine Fever at the British Pig & Poultry Fair
There has never been a case of ASF in the UK and it does not affect humans, but it is potentially fatal to pigs. The risk level was raised last summer following spread of the disease in eastern and central Europe.
If the disease were to reach the UK it could have a devastating effect on our export market and would also mean the humane culling of pigs on infected premises to prevent further spread.
Some of the outbreaks of African swine fever in Europe have been attributed to wild boar or domestic pigs consuming contaminated pork or pork products. It is illegal to feed catering waste of any description or domestic food waste to farm animals in the UK, including pigs kept as pets due to the risk of spreading disease. This includes food from vegetarian kitchens, as there is still a risk of cross contamination from products of animal origin such as milk.
Strict hygiene measures are also essential in preventing disease – people should not take meat or meat products into areas where pigs are kept and should only eat food in designated areas such as staff rooms or the farm kitchen. Pig keepers, farm staff and anyone in contact with pigs should wash their hands before and after eating or preparing food.
UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said:
“From commercial pig farmers to small-holders and people who keep pigs as pets, all pig keepers have a role to play in helping to keep the UK free from African swine fever.
“The greatest risk of introducing the disease is through pigs being fed infected pork or pork products, or other food that has been contaminated by infected meat. So it’s extremely important that pig keepers source their animal feed from safe sources and never feed kitchen waste or catering waste to their pigs, which is illegal.
“Good biosecurity is also essential for minimising disease risk, such as providing dedicated clothing and boots for workers and preventing vehicles which may be contaminated from entering pig premises.”
Chief Executive of the National Pig Association, Dr Zoe Davies, said:
“The health of our pigs is fundamentally important to our sector. A notifiable disease outbreak would not only needlessly result in the loss of many pigs and annihilate our burgeoning export market, but would significantly impact on countless families, their staff, local businesses and tourism for months. Feeding illegal food waste, however harmless it might seem at the time, is just not worth the risk.”
The UK suffered the consequences of pigs being fed illegal waste food in the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001. That outbreak is thought to have originated from pigs being fed catering waste containing the virus, which came from outside the UK. The outbreak resulted in the destruction of more than 10 million cattle and sheep and cost the UK many millions of pounds.
Notes to editors
- This press release is issued jointly by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Defra, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland, The National Pig Association, The British Pig Association, The Pig Veterinary Society, The British Veterinary Association and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Pork.
- EU-wide animal by-product legislation states that feeding farmed animals with catering waste or feed material containing, or derived from, catering waste is illegal. Doing so can result in prosecution.
- Fruit and vegetable material that originated outside the kitchen, which has never entered the kitchen and which has not come into contact with material of animal origin can be fed, such as vegetables grown in domestic gardens. Some commercial food waste can also be fed if it has undergone the correct animal by-products processing and meets the requirements of the Feed Hygiene Regulation. The safest option if you are in doubt is not to feed any food waste to your animals.
- More information about African swine fever and how to spot it can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/african-swine-fever and https://pork.ahdb.org.uk/health-welfare/health/emerging-diseases/african-swine-fever/. If you suspect African swine fever you should notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency
- For more information, contact Defra press office on 020 8225 7618 or out of hours on 0345 051 8486.