African Swine Flu (ASF) has impacted pig farming and pork production across China, Mongolia, Vietnam and Cambodia. It has spread to Asian and European countries, but, as yet, no case had been recorded in the UK.
China, raises half the world’s pigs and the effect of this crisis will be felt globally across grain, meat and financial markets. Industries affected should work closely with suppliers to monitor adequate supplies and quality and to mitigate price increases as much as possible. Also, food businesses should be aware of the increased risk for food fraud where price fluctuations and increased demand affect a particular market.
There is no approved vaccine to prevent pigs from being infected and developing one could take years. Analysts have claimed that it may be five to seven years before the disease stops spreading and farms replenish lost stocks. Some analysts have predicted an annualised pork deficit of some 16.2 million tonnes in a worst case scenario.
African Swine Flu has spread to Asian and European countries. The UK has never had a recorded case but the detection of the disease in dead wild boar in Belgium on 13 September 2018 saw the UK risk level raised from Low to Medium. The disease does not pose any threat to humans.
A crisis of any kind be it via a virus, a contamination or pollution, bacteria, chemical or even radiation may have domestic, European or global repercussions for production, customers and supply chains.
Precautionary and planning measures that should be considered for any crisis are as follows:
- A full Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan should incorporate all major risks and seek to protect against them at vulnerable points within the supply, processing and distribution chain. This should be kept regularly updated to ensure that specific risks are reviewed and protections, as far as possible, included.
- A company should have a detailed and up to date crisis management plan, listing key decision makers, experts and responsibilities. This should be regularly reviewed/tested and any recommendations implemented
- The crisis management plan should be linked to a business continuity plan. Are there alternative supply locations for key ingredients? Alternative production facilities?
- Check insurance policies and terms
- Check contractual terms of supply and distribution agreements
- Health and safety legislation obliges employers to provide a safe as reasonably practicable environment for staff and visitors; suitable risk assessments for employees and other persons affected by the work activities should be carried out and all reasonable precautionary measures implemented
- Keep abreast of new developments – legal, scientific and medical that may affect your product / assist you in protecting against risks and so protecting your customers, consumers and employees and ultimately your business/brand
Specific Measures against ASF
The most infective vector is a live pig but contaminated food, clothing or vehicles returning to the UK from a disease-hit area may be the biggest risk. Here are some top tips for pork producers/farmers on minimising the risks:
- Provide education on the specific risks particularly for workers and visitors from a country where the disease is present
- Only import pigs under veterinary guidance
- Only allow food consumption in a designated canteen
- No pork products, of any kind, must be allowed anywhere on farm
- Provide hand washing facilities in eating areas
- Don’t store food in the farm medicine cabinet or fridge
- Put waste food in vermin proof containers then put it in the bin
- Ensure staff and visitors wear dedicated clothing on the unit
- Wash overalls frequently – daily if possible
- Call a vet immediately if pigs are unwell
- Use boot dips and brushes at each shed entrance
- Read the disinfectant label and stick to instructions
- Disinfect all vehicles and keep them away from the pigs
- Use a Defra approved disinfectant that kills ASF.