While the threat posed by African swine fever (ASF) cannot be underestimated, ASF is not dangerous for humans, and meat from affected pigs does not pose any food safety risk.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine also has a contingency plan in place for ASF to enable it to “respond rapidly and effectively” to any potential outbreak.

This is according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, who was speaking during Dáil proceedings last week.

He was asked by deputy Mattie McGrath (Independent) about the measures in place to ensure that the pig sector is protected from possible contagion with ASF and if a case of it has been reported or found in Ireland since 2011.

Checks in place

The minister, meanwhile, pointed out that checks for illegal food products are being carried out by his department in conjunction with Revenue at ports and airports using a targeted, risk-based approach.

Manual checks along with a trained food detector dog and scanning equipment is used at Dublin Airport to detect food in luggage, for example.

He continued: “ASF has never been detected in Ireland and my department implements a range of controls to mitigate against the risk of the disease coming here.

“This includes monitoring the international disease situation, working with international partners and the implementation of an intensive communications campaign around the disease risk.

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“This campaign aims to provide all relevant stakeholders including farmers, vets, hauliers and the general public with the information they need to play their part in protecting the national pig herd against the introduction of ASF into this country.”

Becoming more aware

The minister went on to say that “a specific awareness campaign” – reminding everyone that the feeding of food waste containing meat products to pigs is prohibited – was launched recently.

This is a particularly important point as the ASF virus is robust and can survive for months, even years, in pork and pork products.

He added: “The feeding of food waste to pigs is known to have caused outbreaks of ASF in Asian countries.

“The key message is: It is vital that all food waste is disposed of safely away from pigs.”