Pig farmers and keepers have been reminded not to feed kitchen or catering waste to pigs to help prevent the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the UK.
It follows news of the Chinese government announcing 88 pigs had died from highly-contagious disease in the eastern city of Lianyungang, the third outbreak this month.
A total of 615 pigs have been infected in China since August 15th.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) stressed that the risk to the UK from ASF in China was ‘negligible’.
Currently, China is not approved for the import of fresh or frozen pig meat to the EU. However, some animal feed products are imported from China, and the agency is investigating other possible pathways.
But the overall risk given the current distribution of ASF in the EU and neighbouring countries is ‘low’, upgraded last year, following fresh outbreaks in central Europe.
“As with ASF in western Russia, Belarus, Moldova and the Ukraine, there are 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,” the agency said.
The virus does not affect people but severe strains of the virus are often fatal to pigs of any age.
If the disease were to reach the UK it would have a devastating effect on the export market and would also mean the humane culling of pigs on infected premises to prevent further spread.
Farmers and keepers have thus been urged not to feed catering waste of any description, or domestic food waste, to pigs. It is illegal to do so. This is because of the risk of spreading disease.
This includes food from vegetarian kitchens, as there is still a risk of cross contamination from products of animal origin such as milk.
This ban on feeding food waste also helps to protect the UK from diseases such as foot and mouth disease.