African Swine Fever: UK risk remains low but 2 core trends ‘worrying’ officials

There are two trends which are cause for concern in the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), according to UK Government analysts.

The current risk of ASF introduction to the UK is therefore still considered to be “low”, although the situation is being kept under review.

Writing in a monthly assessment of the disease’s spread across Europe and western Asia, officials said that the first major “worrying” concern was the spread and number of outbreaks in the large non-commercial backyard pig sector in Romania.

In Romania, the number of cases in non-commercial backyard pigs has increased “exponentially”, the official document highlighted.

British officials stated that understanding how the disease is spreading so rapidly in the backyard sector in the area is vital to designing effective control measures.

The second concern highlighted was the increase in outbreaks in large commercial pig farms (farms with more than 1,000 pigs) in countries including Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

“An outbreak of ASF has also been reported in late July for the first time in a large pig farm along the northern border of Poland near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, therefore controls on the commercial production of pork products will rely heavily on effective ante and post-mortem inspections,” the document stated.

Around 95,000kg of total pork has been legally imported to the UK from Romania so far this year, with a similar amount also estimated to have come from Poland, according to the latest HMRC trade statistics.

Commercially-produced meat from the ASF-affected regions cannot be traded as fresh or frozen meat to other member states.

However, there are concerns around ASF-contaminated or infected pork products from non-EU countries entering the EU in passenger luggage and then being discarded in areas where wild boar or outdoor pigs are present.

Public campaigns are in place to discourage EU nationals from bringing pork products into the UK, but keepers should also be aware of this high-risk activity.