CPC is working with CFIA and the Canada Border Service Agency to ensure that ASF and other foreign animal diseases are not spread to Canadian herds
By Jackie Clark
As African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to spread in Asia and Europe, Canadian pork groups are emphasizing education to prevent the virus from arriving here.
For example, Alberta Pork released a document on Dec. 10, outlining biosecurity protocol for overseas visitors on farms or international travel.
“A number of the pork boards have all put out fairly similar documents, warning about the risks of bringing international travellers into your farms,” Dr. Egan Brockhoff, veterinary counselor at the Canadian Pork Council (CPC), told Farms.com.
“Of course, a lot of farms have international workers as well so, in many ways, (these recommendations are) really targeted to reminding people about their workers,” Brockhoff added.
For farmers returning home from travelling overseas or welcoming others who have travelled to their operations, it is important to be vigilant about biosecurity.
“ASF virus survives well in cured, heat-dried, salt-dried products,” Brockhoff explained. “Those processes don’t kill the virus. Frozen products that are uncooked” also pose a risk, he said.
The major concern would be “someone goes into (a Canadian producer’s) barn with an uncooked meat product and somehow that gets over to a pig,” Brockhoff said.
The resources available are “a good reminder for people to make sure no meat products are ever fed to their pigs, and if (pork producers) have international guests or people returning home, just to remind them don’t bring any meat products home with you and certainly don’t take them to work,” he said.
“There are commercial pig barns that have four walls and a roof, but there are still a lot of pigs in Canada that are kept outdoors,” he added. To prevent the spread of the disease to pigs who live outdoors, or through wild pigs, the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) is also involved.
“It is illegal to bring meat products into Canada,” Brockhoff said. However, illegal products may still be smuggled in intentionally, or accidentally by folks who are unaware of regulations.
If illegal meat products are discovered or declared upon entry, they are confiscated by border services, Brockhoff explained. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has protocols “for what it calls the destruction of international waste,” he said.
If, upon entry into Canada, a traveller declares that he or she visited a farm internationally and will be returning to a farm in the country “it’s at the discretion of the Canada Border Service officer,” Brockoff said.
They boarder service agent “can refer you to the agriculture kiosk, and at that point they will possibly inspect your footwear or luggage” and may wish to apply a disinfectant, he said.
Airports and airlines have also tried to increase passenger awareness of the risks.
“CFIA has asked airlines to voluntarily announce to passengers that they shouldn’t bring in plant or animal products,” Brockhoff said.
“When you get off the plane from an international flight, you’ll notice the signage now is pretty well everywhere,” he added. Every airport does things a little differently, but prominent ASF awareness signs are in multiple languages and list the amount of possible fines, Brockhoff explained.
“That’s all part and parcel with the advocacy that CPC’s been doing. We’ve had such a great working relationship with CFIA and CBSA,” he said.
The biosecurity protocol in place for ASF are an extension of an already successful system that’s kept out other foreign animal diseases, like foot and mouth disease (FMD), which can “can also survive in uncooked meat products,” Brockhoff said.
Brockhoff also listed classical swine fever, which is “clinically similar disease to ASF, but a much different virus,” as another example.
“The list goes on,” he said. “We’ve been doing an awesome job of keeping (foreign animal diseases) out.”
However, “there’s so much more virus in the world today than there was in the 1950s and there are so many more travellers today, so the risk continues to grow,” he added.
Reports from other countries underscore the level of risk.
“Both Japan and Australia test the meat products that they seize at their airports and they have found multiple viruses including ASF and FMD,” Brockhofff explained.
“The approach that we’ve taken in Canada is just to assume absolutely every single illegal meat product arriving at the border is potentially infected,” he added.