Pig out: Good news for pork lovers amid swine fever breakout
The outbreak that has affected four provinces in the country does not pose any risks to consumers, experts say
The African swine fever (ASF) outbreak that has affected four provinces in the past six weeks does not pose any risk to consumers of pork, the SA Pork Producers Organisation (Sappo) says.
“The SA pork industry has a proud record of a high herd-health status, and there are many preventative and operational biosecure measures maintained by SA pork producers,” the organisation’s CEO, Johann Kotzé, said.
“These protocols safeguard consumers against risk and ensure food safety. ASF does not pose a risk to consumers of pork.”
Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and the Free State have been affected by the outbreak, and many farms have been quarantined. The latest outbreak occurred last week in the Heilbron area of the Free State.
Kotzé said a farm in Delmas, Mpumalanga, which had 180 pigs, had also recently been affected after several of the animals were bought from an auctioneer in the area.
“They were fed a mixture of bran and vegetable byproducts from a local vegetable factory,” he said.
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana said the department was concerned about the outbreaks.
“We are working with provincial departments to make sure this is prevented from spreading. It’s a concern, but with the veterinarians in these provinces, we hope we won’t have another outbreak,” he said, adding all the affected areas had been placed under quarantine.
“Veterinary services, together with the industry, are conducting follow-up investigations to trace the origin of the disease and to identify other farms that may be affected,” Nkwanyana said.
“Farmers are requested to be vigilant and to report any sudden illness and deaths of their pigs to the local state veterinarian.”
He said all four outbreaks occurred outside ASF-controlled areas of SA and had been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
OIE said on its site that the disease was a severe viral infection affecting domestic and wild pigs and was responsible for serious production and economic losses.
It said the disease could spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, as well as pork products, and could also occur via contaminated feed and fomites such as shoes, clothes, vehicles and knives due to the high resistance of the virus.
“There is no approved vaccine against ASF. Historically, outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America and the Caribbean,” said the organisation in their site.
After the Free State outbreak, Kotzé and Dr Peter Evans, who is responsible for consumer assurance at Sappo, visited the farm last week.
Kotze said the farm belonged to an upcoming small producer. It had been put under quarantine, and “depopulation” had to be done.
“ASF is a serious disease for pigs, and the only way to ensure the virus does not spread is to depopulate all the pigs on the infected farms. The following-up procedure is to disinfect the farm,” Kotze said, adding those farms would only be able to bring in new pigs after 120 days.
Nkwanyana said teams had travelled to KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, working with other veterinarians to prevent it spreading.
The outbreak has not affected the sale of pork in SA. In January, 252,053 pigs were slaughtered, while in February the number dropped only slightly to 244,996. In March, 247,201 were slaughtered, with Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga slaughtering in high volumes. April’s figure is not yet available.