Science Page: Illegal importation of meat derived food products through passenger airline carriers and possibility of disease introduction

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week we are sharing an article by the MSHMP team regarding the impact of illegal meat product importation on disease introduction.

Key Points:

  • Commercial airplane passengers bring illegal food imports
  • These illegally imported food products are an overlooked but important disease introduction source
  • The illegal importation by commercial travelers happens more frequently then generally assumed

Illegally imported products are a likely source of disease introduction

The recent African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in China have created concern in the US swine industry over the possible introduction of the disease into the US, thus making Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) a primary topic of concern. One of the most pressing concerns about FADs in general, and ASF in particular, is what are the likely sources of entry, and how the associated risks can be mitigated. Illegally imported products, carried by commercial air passengers are often overlooked as a minor introduction source. Several studies around the world show that commercial air passengers do represent a likely source of disease introduction. Outbreaks of ASF, Classical Swine Fever (CSF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) have been attributed to feeding imported waste meat to domestic pigs (Falk, et al., 2013).

Thousands tons of illegal food products are found at airports

It is difficult to estimate the total amount of illegal food products entering a single country each year. A study conducted in Germany in 2015 at two major airports tracked seizures for three months, including an intensive 10 days of special controls where higher numbers of passenger luggage was searched. Based upon that data they estimated that each year 2,800 tons of illegal food products were brought in via the Frankfurt airport alone. The most commonly imported foods were meat and meat products, including raw, home cooked, preserved, and packaged foods (Beutlich, et al., 2015).

Another study, conducted in Switzerland estimated that the total volume of non-intercepted meat products were 8.6 tons for bush meat, and 1,013 tons for other meat products (Falk, et al., 2013).

Illegal food products contain pathogens; airports are risky ports of entry

A key point to understand the risk of improperly imported foods is knowing how often they contain pathogens and whether these have the capability of remaining infectious. In the German study, out of 474 samples tested, 5% of them contained food borne pathogens (Beutlich, et al., 2015). In a similar study conducted in Spain 67 out of 122 samples tested at an airport contained human noroviruses, and hepatitis E (Rodriguez-Lazaro, et al., 2015).

A modeling study focused on estimating the risk of introduction of ASF and CSF into the US using airport and customs data. The study identified specific airports (i.e.Washington-Dulles, George Bush-Houston, JFK-Queen, Warwick, Sanjuan, West Palm Beach, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark and Cleveland) as ports of entry with the highest risk for both ASF and CSF introduction. This work also identified the months of May through July as the months with the highest risk (Jurado, Paternoster, Martínez-López, Burton, & Mur, 2018).

Only a fraction of illegal imports are intercepted

It is estimated that only between 10-50% of improperly imported products are intercepted at customs (Jurado, Paternoster, Martínez-López, Burton, & Mur, 2018).One study’s sensitivity analysis showed that for both ASF and CSF, the likelihood of detecting illegal products was highly correlated with the final risk of disease introduction.This means that an increase in customs detection of products brought by commercial passengers largely reduces the risk of a CSV or ASF introduction into the US (Jurado, Paternoster, Martínez-López, Burton, & Mur, 2018).

Pork products were seized recently in the USA and Japan

Recently, on October 15th, 2018 a customs and border protection beagle found a whole roasted pig in the luggage of a traveler from Ecuador(Lieu, 2018) at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport. Ecuador as any other South American country is ASF negative, but CSF continues to be present in the country. It is unknown whether the smoked pig has been tested for CSF, but the case is a perfect example of the variety of products that are being transported to the US.

On October 1st, Japanese customs officials confiscated a pork sausage from a Beijing traveler. The sausage tested positive for ASF (Reuters). African Swine Fever has also been found at a South Korean airport in pork products brought in a commercial passenger airline from China (Reuters). All of these examples highlight the reality of the risk illegally imported products carried by commercial travelers play in FAD introduction.

It is important for the swine community to be aware of these risks, to be aware of what food products are being brought to their sites by people, and to push for effective prevention methods. It also highlights the need of the swine community to communicate this risk to the non-swine community to raise awareness and thus contribute to protecting the industry. By using research that helps identify where the highest risks lie spatially and temporally, as well as flights from which countries represent risk, better prevention methods can be developed and implemented.

What if African Swine Fever came to Minnesota?

The Center for Food Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota released a new video on African Swine Fever and what the consequences would be if it ever came to Minnesota. Dr. Marie Culhane from the University of Minnesota and Dr. Beth Thompson, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health discuss how the state prepared for this eventuality.

Click on the video to listen to their exchange. (14:56 min)

 

Swine Disease Global Surveillance Report: bi-monthly update

The new swine disease global surveillance report was released earlier this week. Coordinated by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the Swine Health Information Center, the aim of these reports is to have a structure for near real-time identification of hazards. In this report, updates are focusing on African Swine Fever in China and Belgium, Classical Swine Fever in Brazil and Japan, Foot and Mouth Disease in Colombia.

African Swine Fever

CHINA

Since last August, 30 outbreaks of ASF have been reported in China spreading through nine provinces. So far in October, seven outbreaks occurred, five of them in the province of Liaoning in the northeast of the country where the first case was reported two months ago. This peak in the number of outbreaks suggests the situation still remains far from
under control.

BELGIUM

Belgium keeps investigating the presence of the disease in the wild boar population. Fences and gates were built aiming to isolate an area, but so far 84 animals were detected positive since the first detection of the disease in the country, on September 13. There are several theories regarding introduction of the virus in this region in Europe and the role people play in carrying swine by-products or even hunting materials into this region is being discussed and investigated.

Classical Swine Fever

BRAZIL

On October 8, Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) reported an outbreak of CSF in a backyard free-range farm located in the state of Ceará (Forquilha-CE). The outbreak was reported to the veterinary service, where high mortality rates and clinical signs (anorexia, fever, incoordination) were observed in sows and younger pigs. The fatality rate was 97 percent and the remaining animals were euthanized. The farm was then isolated followed by the euthanasia for the animals, sanitary destruction of carcasses, disinfection, a restriction of movements in the region, and an initiation of an investigation in surrounding farms.

JAPAN

One month after the identification of the outbreak of CSF in Japan, investigations were implemented in the region of Gifu Prefecture, along with 25 other Prefectures. Overall, 19 wild boars were found positive (15 percent) for CSF in Gifu, and no positive animals were identified elsewhere. Investigations are ongoing.

Foot and Mouth Disease

Currently, the following countries have reported the presence of FMD in swine: China, Colombia, South Korea, North Korea, and Russia.

COLOMBIA

On October 10, the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA, by its Spanish acronym) reported an outbreak of FMD in a swine farm, located in the Departamento de Cesar, north of the country and very close to the Venezuelan border. Ten days prior, another outbreak was identified in cattle, in a city located approximately 500 miles (800km) away, in Departamento de Boyaca. Both regions have vaccination coverage and were recognized as “free with vaccination” on December 2017.

The full report with maps and location of the various outbreaks is available to read here.

 

ASF update: Swine Disease Global Surveillance bi-monthly report

This report was published by the Swine Health Information Center and prepared by the University of Minnesota.

Epidemiological Situation

Belgium

On September 14th, the OIE official report of the 1st ASF case in Belgium was released, confirming our previous report. On Saturday, 15th, the Federal Agriculture minister confirmed three new cases in the same area of the initial report, identified in wild boars found dead in the city of Etalle (Luxembourg province), near the border with France.

On Friday evening, a multisectoral meeting took place in Belgium, where the farming, meat and animal feed sectors asked for priority measures against the spread of African Swine Fever to be in place. In the joint statement coming from that meeting, they draw up five possible critical needs/measures to mitigate the disease spreading: a European plan to define and maintain the affected zone; the creation of a committee dedicated to the export of meat and pork products; a regulated slaughtering and butchering method for pigs in the area which is under tight surveillance; a realistic and feasible plan to reduce the boar population in the country; and finally the creation of a crisis communication committee.

Arrangements are being done to ban the movement, hunting and feeding of wild boars in the region to control the spread of the disease by human interaction. An investigation and monitoring program is being implemented, with the support of European experts.

China

With the reporting of two new outbreaks today (September 14th), unofficially, there have been 21 ASF outbreaks reported in China. The last two reported outbreaks included (a) 16 hogs with sudden death in the Inner Mongolian Province, and (b) a farm in Henan Province, with 148 infected pigs and 43% fatality rate. Officially, however, the OIE WAHIS platform still reports only 19 outbreaks in six provinces (Figures 1 and 2). Although the cause of ASF introduction into China remains unclear, in March, 2018, FAO alerted for the risk of introduction of ASF into the country by illegal introduction of animals or food. There are also concerns that, similarly to what has been reported in Europe, wild boars may play a role in the spread of the disease.

Control Activities

Approximately 40,500 pigs have been culled since the beginning of the epidemic, with mortality rates that varied between 0 and 23.17% (Figure 1). The Chinese government reported checking pigs in thousands of sites, which may have resulted in the increase of the identification of new outbreaks. In an attempt to contain the spread of the disease, all transport of live animals from infected provinces is restricted, feed policy is being adjusted to the current scenario, and the logistics of the industry and the Chinese market are being reviewed. On September 13th, the use of food waste and pig blood as feed for pigs in ASF-infected and neighboring provinces was banned. Also, testing pig feed to ASF will be required, and positive samples will trigger destruction of the whole batch of feed.

Disease Impact

China is considering to import meat from other markets, including the European Union, that in 2017 faced an intense decline in pork exports. US hog market is also currently facing a low price market, however with expansion in number of sows and pork produced. International trade is at risk once ASF is spreading rapidly into consolidated markets like Europe and China, and concerns are growing around the globe.

 

Figure 1: Summary of outbreaks of African Swine Fever in China. Nineteen outbreaks were reported to OIE, in 6 provinces: Lianoning, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Heilongjiang (Source: OIE – WAHIS).

 

Figure 2: Chinese provinces with reported ASF outbreaks (Lianoning, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Heilongjiang). The intensity of the green shade depicts the number of culled animals, with the Province of Liaoning (darkest green) showing the highest cull rate.

 

 

Swine Global Surveillance Project Issues First Reports

cahfs_primary_graphicThe University of Minnesota Swine Group and the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) have partnered with the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) to develop and implement a system for near real time global surveillance of swine diseases. The output of the system is the identification of hazards that are subsequently scored using a step-wise procedure of screening, to identify increments in hazards that, potentially, may represent a risk for the US.

The first version of the system is now live, with the first three reports available, including data from November 5, 2017 to January 14, 2018.

Beginning in early March the tool will be available for spontaneous reporting by stakeholders, such as producers and practitioners both overseas and in the United States. During the first year of the project, the system will be developed and beta-tested for USDA-classified tier 1 reportable foreign animal swine diseases (ASF, CSF, FMD), but in the future more diseases will be tracked.

“As we have learned in recent years, we need to pay attention to external health threats as part of our overall risk management. Keeping tabs on global trends is a prudent investment,” said Dr. Jerry Torrison, Director of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

From the most recent report, December 18, 2017 – January 14, 2018:

The current concern continues to focus on African swine fever in Poland and surrounding countries. Infected wild boars continue to be identified in the vicinity surrounding Warsaw, and the possibility of spread of the disease to the pig intensive area of eastern Poland continues to be a concern. Countries in the region are using a combination of increased hunting of wild boar along with boar proof fencing along borders to attempt to control the spread of the disease.

Visit z.umn.edu/SwineGlobalSurveillance to access the reports, and coming soon, to use the tool to provide spontaneous reporting.