July 2014: Good news on PEDv, not so good on Trichinella

With summer here and people starting to prepare for what I hope will be a bumper harvest, you’d think things would get quieter; but you’d be wrong. While we have good news on the PEDv front in that the European Commission (EC) has agreed to review import requirements (and hopefully use our protocols) for live pigs coming into the EU, we’ve not such a good story to tell on Trichinella.

Our meeting on the matter with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), although difficult, was useful and helped us to understand the tricky situation that it finds itself in, but that still doesn’t help our free-range and organic producers. Although we have until October to bed-in the additional testing, it looks as though we’re going to have to do it.

We argued long and hard to try and get some sort of allowance for a risk assessment for individual businesses, and to emphasise the massive business impact this will have on a relatively small percentage of pigs (which would be unlikely to improve the chances of finding Trichinella). However, the fact remains that the EC’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) can’t see a difference between free-range and free ranging, and is still convinced that we’re not testing as much as we should be.

It’s hugely frustrating considering the FVO has no plans to look for illegal stall systems across the EU when half the member states are still not compliant! Of course, that isn’t a food safety issue so it’s less interested in that particular problem.

What we need to do now is implore the small and large abattoir associations to work together to provide solutions for these people. Hepatitis E is just about to rear its ugly head again too, so no doubt we’ll be back at the FSA soon.

While I’m in rant mode, I’d also like to express my frustration at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which has yet again been sniping at the sidelines rather than coming to talk to the industry and helping us find solutions.

CIWF’s new favourite topics are manipulable materials and tail docking – sadly it appears to have forgotten about sow stalls – and it has prepared a “dossier” for the Government that it says proves that we’re still docking tails illegally and not giving pigs any manipulable materials.

This document presents as evidence pictures taken from farming publications in the UK and on the Continent.

Aside from the fact that CIWF has never been on any of the units pictured (some of which weren’t even in the UK), it also fails to appreciate that none of the pictures show the whole pen and that tail docking isn’t illegal!

So, now I’ve a job of work to do to redress the balance with the powers that be. Meanwhile, Lizzie will be out in Brussels shortly to help provide input on the EC’s guidance for manipulable materials and tail biting by trying to get something other than straw added as a solution!

On the positive side, we’re getting really involved in pushing forward some of the recommendations from the pig disease prevention strategy roundtable, especially on contingency planning, biosecurity and preventing the ingress of new diseases. I know I’m always saying I like action not talking, so it’s good to be a part of this important exercise. We’ll be looking to producers for their thoughts on potential strategies soon, so your help and involvement would be most appreciated!

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

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