Pork producers fear increased disease risk from PEDv

U.S. truck washes are known to harbour a deadly pig virus

A decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to end measures intended to keep the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, out of Manitoba, has producers worried.

As of October 1, trucks returning to Canada after dropping swine off in the U.S. will be required to be disinfected and cleaned at American facilities before entering Canada.

Previously, the agency allowed these trucks to be sealed in the United States and disinfected once they reached Manitoba.

Officials with the Manitoba Pork Council said that it’s the very truck-washing stations the agency wants them to use that harbour the virus.

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“I would definitely say this will put producers and their livestock at risk,” said council chairman George Matheson. “The system we had in place, where the trailers were tagged and sealed, then cleaned in Manitoba worked very well. We have superior washing facilities in Manitoba, as compared to North Dakota.”

He added that tests at American wash facilities have also proven that viruses are surviving in those environments.

“I mean the proof that our system has been working effectively is the fact that we’ve only had four cases of PEDv in the province,” Matheson said. “So if these trailers are washed in substandard facilities in the U.S. there is going to be a much greater risk of the virus entering Canada.”

No one from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was available for comment, but in an August 24 notice sent to producers, the agency said it no longer believed the situation constituted an emergency requiring a deviation from regulated procedures.

“The CFIA, in consultation with the provinces, during the initial incursion of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus into Canada, had allowed for a temporary emergency protocol for empty swine trucks to be undertaken in the province of Manitoba,” reads the notice. “The CFIA has reviewed the situation and has concluded that the outbreak of PED in Canada no longer merits an emergency response.”

The federal agency went on to indicate that — after scientific review — it’s not aware of any evidence that using recycled water is a biosecurity risk when all organic matter has been removed and it’s followed by a hot water, detergent wash and an application of disinfectant.

It also added that cleaning and disinfecting procedures are meant to protect against several diseases, including pseudorabies, vesicular stomatitis, and the Delta corona virus, in addition to PEDv.

But the general manager of the Pork Council disagrees with the CFIA’s risk assessment.

“Our fear is that the U.S. wash stations don’t have a very high standard. There’s a lot of PEDv in those areas and the likelihood of our trailers becoming infected is there,” said Andrew Dickson. “So by going to those wash stations, these trailers will be exposed to viruses they wouldn’t have been exposed to before.”

He said that trucks currently go down to the U.S. with Canadian bedding and animals, which is then off-loaded without anyone from the U.S. actually coming onboard.

“So the chance for disease coming into the trailer is remote this way,” he said.

Now trailers will likely be washed twice — once in the U.S. and again in Manitoba — to negate that risk.

“And that of course is an additional cost,” Dickson said.

Matheson noted that the Manitoba Pork Council was able to negotiate some slight extensions on the emergency protocol, but that overall, the agency was not receptive to the concerns of Manitoba producers.

“They pretty much dug their heels in,” he said. “It is not a pretty picture that is looming in front of us.”

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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