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Red Tractor pig chair: Swine feed decisions critical as ASF threat looms in U.K.

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February 2, 2023
By Bree Rody

Stewart Houston, pig sector chairman of the not-for-profit U.K. farming assurance company Red Tractor, has published a blog post urging U.K. swine farmers to be vigilant and step up biosecurity efforts in order to keep African Swine Fever (ASF) virus out of the country.

ASF does not affect humans, but, Houston urged, “is a highly contagious and fatal notifiable disease” that has been detected in several continents in recent years. It has been detected in other parts of Europe, such as Italy, although no known cases have hit the U.K. But with mainland Italy’s confirmation of the disease, Houston says the risk of ASF reaching the U.K. is not higher.

“If it were to arrive here, it would have a devastating impact on the health of our pig population and the domestic and international trade of pigs and pork.”

According to Houston, there are numerous ways of ASF coming into a new country, but the most likely path is through humans. Although humans cannot become sick from ASF the way they can with some zootonic viruses and illnesses, they can carry virus. Therefore, the Animal and Plant Health Agency considers the human route, such as in passenger luggage, to be a “high” risk, with other pathway risk factors labelled as “medium.”


With these risk factors in mind, Houston wrote that one of the measures to prevent the spread lies in what producers feed their pigs. “As the ASF virus survives well in uncooked, cured, or frozen meat, one key measure is to make sure you are not feeding your pigs any food waste,” he wrote. “It is illegal to feed catering or domestic food waste, including from vegetarian and vegan kitchens, to pigs or wild boar, as there is a risk of spreading disease. This includes kitchen scraps and leftovers, raw or cooked meat, cured, dried, smoked, or frozen meat, fish, and shellfish, and even dog and cat food.”

Houston urged specially formulated commercial pig feed, as well as fruit and vegetables that have never entered a domestic or commercial kitchen and haven’t come into contact with products of animal origin such as meat or dairy.

Read Houston’s full blog post here.

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