APHA issues fresh warning on ASF risk from Asian pork imports

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has reiterated its warnings that African swine fever could reach the UK in pork illegally imported from Asia.

The agency’s latest update on the situation in Asia highlights how the virus, confirmed in China in August 2018, has also reached Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and, most recently, North Korea, with potential for further spread.

The overall risk to the UK given the current distribution of ASF in Belgium, Eastern Europe and neighbouring countries is still set at ‘medium’.

However, the agency adds: “There are ongoing concerns around pork products from non-EU countries entering the EU in passenger luggage and then being discarded in areas where wild boar or domestic pigs are present.

“With regular direct flights to the EU and UK from China and eastern Asia, there is a risk of entry of ASF virus in products of animal origin (POAO) from Asia.

“Recent media accounts, in New Jersey (USA) in March and Japan in January, reported the movement of illegal pork products and ASF infected pork products from China in these countries respectively.

Publicity campaigns are in place to inform the public and discourage individuals from bringing pork products into UK, with targeted messages to key people such as road hauliers, hunters, pig keepers and veterinarians.”

The risk of ASF introduction to the UK was raised to medium in August 2018, following the confirmation of a number of new outbreaks in Eastern Europe, and subsequent detection of ASF in wild boar in Belgium in September 2018.

Despite the spread of ASF across Asia, the current risk is still considered to be medium. However, the situation is being kept under review and depends on how ASF spreads both within China and across other parts of south-east Asia.

The agency has reiterated its advice to pig keepers and the public for keeping ASF out of the UK domestic pig and feral boar populations.

  • All pig keepers and the public are urged to ensure pigs are not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products, thereby observing the swill feeding ban.
  • All pig keepers should be aware that visitors to their premises should not have had recent contact with pigs and pig premises in the affected regions.
  • Anybody returning from any ASF-affected area should avoid contact with domestic pigs, whether commercial holdings or smallholdings, areas with feral pigs or wild boar, until they are confident they have no contaminated clothing, footwear or equipment.
  • Pig keepers and vets should remind themselves of the clinical signs for ASF. Any suspect cases must be reported promptly. Click here for more information.
  • The public is reminded that any feeding of meat products, including swill, kitchen scraps and catering waste, to wild boar or feral pigs is also illegal. A poster reminding pig keepers of this is available here

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.