June 2014: The EC’s limited action on PEDv is better than nothing

I’m still reeling from a very busy couple of days at the Pig Fair, but even though it’s pretty exhausting, I really do get such a buzz out of it.

It was lovely to see so many members just popping by to say hello, and we were immensely grateful to the lovely Ladies in Pigs, who kept us fuelled with delicious porky treats, and BPEX, which kindly let us steal tea and coffee for the duration.

The mood was generally very positive I thought, and although the weather and traffic made for a slow start, numbers really did pick up. Apparently the building manufacturers were overrun with enquiries, which is always a good sign. I just hope all our other Allied Industry members fared as well, and also picked up some good business.

I’ve been over in Brussels again trying to get the Europeans to wake up to the threat of PEDv, and this time with partial success (finally). Thanks to the negotiation talents of Rebecca Wells in the British Agriculture Bureau office (almost impossible to say no to this woman!), I was able to secure a meeting with the Director for Veterinary and International Affairs at the European Commission (EC), Bernard van Goethem.

While I really did feel that the UK was simply being humoured, he assured me the EC was indeed taking this threat seriously, and had agreed with the US and Canada that no live pig imports would be made for the next 40 days. While this is better than nothing, and we aren’t looking to impose trade restrictions, this measure won’t really help in the long term.

I’ve asked that, at the very least, the EC expects importers to abide by the import protocol that the NPA has developed with the UK breeding companies, AHVLA, SRUC and BPEX.

The EC has also put greater restrictions on production and storage of blood plasma products, but I have urged it to continue to look for other vectors since we still don’t know how it jumped from China to the US.

The other countries present at the COPA (EU Farmers representatives) meeting were much more concerned, however, so hopefully we’ll get within-country action if the EC refuses to take responsibility.

The FSA has been consulting on suggested changes to pig meat inspection, and although this will impact on all pig producers, the requirement to test 100% of pigs housed outdoors for Trichinella is particularly concerning. The fact that we’ve not seen this nasty parasite since the 1970s isn’t enough for the EC, which maintains we’ve not found it because we haven’t looked hard enough – despite all cull sows and boars, and a percentage of finished pigs being tested already.

Free range pig producers will be significantly affected as carcases have to be held until the test results come back, typically two days, bringing implications for storage capacity in smaller abattoirs, as well as meat quality.

Thankfully, the FSA has agreed to take a little longer in determining its course of action with industry input, but this is certainly one we will have to watch very closely.

> Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk

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