Europe on high alert as deadly pig disease sweeps through Asia

The Commission made it clear, though, that the EU does not import pork from China. [Shutterstock]

EU member states should apply strict biosecurity measures to combat African Swine Fever (ASF), a deadly pig disease which started spreading through Asia and Eastern Europe, an EU spokesperson told EURACTIV.com.

“It is now of utmost importance to contain the situation on the ground,” said Anca Paduraru, EU spokesperson for public health and food safety. “In particular, there is an urgent need to enhance and comply with strict biosecurity measures where needed,” she told EURACTIV.

“The best reaction is taking the right action against this catastrophic animal disease,” she said, adding that raising public awareness was crucial to contain the disease, as well as encouraging cooperation at all levels of society.

ASF is an infectious disease which is usually deadly for pigs but harmless to humans. There is currently no vaccine to combat this virus.

“All affected member states must apply the European legislation. This includes prevention and control measures to be applied where ASF is suspected or confirmed, either in holdings or in wild boars,” Paduraru said.

As of early August, the disease had been detected in nine EU member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, according to the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA has made a number of recommendations and highlights the need for enhanced biosecurity in EU farms.

Andriukaitis raps Bulgaria for failing to act against swine fever

The inadequate reaction of Bulgaria’s authorities to a huge outbreak of swine fever puts at risk the entire pig population of the country, the EU Commissioner for health, food and safety has told the Bulgarian National Radio ‘Horizont’ programme.

Copa Cogeca, the EU farmers and cooperatives union, said outbreaks were also notified in Slovakia and Serbia during the month of August. This week, a new outbreak of ASF was also notified in Poland.

“There is a North-South front of cases advancing westwards,” said Thomas Sanchez, a pig meat expert at Copa Cogeca. “The situation in Romania is the most worrisome,” with 75% of all backyard pigs now infected, he  told EURACTIV.

In Belgium, one wild boar carcass was tested ASF positive on 19 August. However, the tendency in the last few months in Belgium has been a clear decrease in cases, Sanchez said.

A ‘catastrophe’ in Asia

Sanchez said the situation in Asia was catastrophic, with outbreaks reported in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, North Korea and Laos. Especially in China, the disease has severely affected the pig industry, according to Reuters news agency.

China’s second-largest pig producer Muyuan Foods, said last week that its losses widened compared to last year due to the fall of pig prices as well as the costs incurred to combat the virus.

The Commission made it clear, though, that the EU does not import pork from China.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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