Russia's agriculture safety watchdog urged swine producers to make sure they don’t allow pigs infected with African swine fever (ASF) to go into the food chain, Reuters reports on Thursday.
The group said it had found traces of ASF in pork products in several regions, urging the pork industry to step up controls. Genetic traces of the virus - which is highly contagious among pigs, but is not dangerous to humans - were detected in products from the Voronezh region in the central part of Russia earlier this year, Reuters reports.
Although there is no public health threat or food safety concern for humans, these products were supplied to several other central regions in Russia, creating an opportunity for the disease to spread.
Russia learns valuable lessons
One of the lessons Russia has learned from its battle with ASF is that its critical to get infected meat out of the food chain immediately.
At the Iowa Pork Congress, Ilia Zubtsov, genetic and technical services manager for PIC Russia, said it’s mandatory to euthanize pigs on the farm if a farm is struck by any cases of ASF.
You must euthanize pigs on site, Zubtsov explained. If you follow all of the disposal procedures, infected meat never gets into the food chain and the risk of the virus continuing to spread decreases.
To keep ASF from spreading, transparency and open communication are key.
“We had to make a lot of changes to biosecurity policies, vet policies and training people,” Zubtsov said. “We also had to increase people awareness because that’s so important.”
Food safety isn’t at risk
While ASF is devastating to hog herds and difficult to eradicate, infected meat doesn’t pose a threat to humans or food safety concerns, especially in the U.S. where the disease has not been introduced. The larger concern is that the infected meat act as a vector and would enable transmission to hog herds from region to region.
“ASF is a concern because it severely impacts the health and well-being of pigs, and eliminating this disease is challenging. It’s critical we understand the disease and continue to work to prevent it from entering the U.S.,” said Ann Garvey, Iowa Public Health Veterinarian. “But rest assured it’s not a human health or food safety concern and the pork that you purchase remains a safe and healthy food choice.”