Should Consumers Be Worried About African Swine Fever?

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Plenty of information has been published recently regarding concerns of African Swine Fever for US pork producers. Rightly so, but should consumers be concerned about the safety of pork in the United States today? The following article, from Pork Checkoff News, does a fantastic job of explaining the disease and why consumers should be confident about the safety of pork in the US.

Key Facts to Know about African Swine Fever (ASF)

Pork is safe to eat. U.S. pigs are not affected by the ASF outbreaks in other countries, to date.

  • ASF does not affect humans and therefore is not a public health threat.
  • Pork products from animals with ASF are safe to consume.
  • As usual, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food supply, including if ASF is detected in the United States.
  • As always, you should follow safe handling and cooking instructions to protect your family’s health.

African swine fever is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people. So, it is not a public health threat nor a food-safety concern.

  • ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through contact with pigs or pork.
  • Members of the pig family, including commercial pigs and wild pigs, are the only animals susceptible to the ASF virus.
  • ASF can be transmitted to pigs through feeding of uncooked garbage containing contaminated pork products. The Swine Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste containing any meat products to swine, ensuring that all food waste fed to swine is properly treated to kill any disease organisms.
  • ASF is easily transmitted to other pigs through direct contact with infected pigs or their waste, contaminated clothing, feed, equipment and vehicles, and in some cases, by blood-sucking insects, including some tick species.

The USDA does not allow importation of swine or fresh pork products into the U.S. from countries or regions that are reported positive for the ASF virus.

  • Restrictions are based on the APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)-recognized animal health status of the region and are enforced by regulations.
  • A region can be (a) a national entity (country); (b) part of a national entity (zone, county, province, state, etc.); (c) parts of several national entities combined into an area; or (d) a group of national entities (countries) combined into a single area.
  • Proof of disease control and subsequent regionalization is the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the exporting country.

Additional Information

African swine fever is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of swine. Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade. The United States has never had a case of African swine fever. There are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection, and Quarantine and Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response plan for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.

In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and to collaborate with the USDA.

ReferencePork Checkoff News, Foreign Animal Disease Issue Bulletin, “Key Facts to Know about African Swine Fever”. Vol 2 Issue 2, January 16, 2019.