Biosecurity measures protect animals from African Swine Fever

October 14, 2020

In response to the contagious and deadly animal virus disease, Smithfield Foods’ mitigates risk using robust biosecurity policy.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious, incurable and fatal viral disease that affects hogs. First discovered in China in August 2018, the disease spread rapidly across Asia, Europe and Africa.

The impacts have been crippling to pork producers, with losses of animals in the hundreds of millions. With no cure or vaccine, the main mitigation strategies to prevent the spread are to follow strict on-farm protocol and best practices and avoid contamination from affected countries.

Fortunately, there have been no reports of the virus in North America. Unfortunately, ASF is present and expanding in portions of Europe, including Poland and Romania.

In response, Smithfield Foods, Inc. enhanced its already robust biosecurity procedures, taking notable steps to protect its farms from the virus at its domestic and international operations.

Investing in biosecurity

Strong biosecurity measures that keep animals safe and healthy on farms are not only vital to business – they also support efforts to help feed a growing world population, provide jobs in local communities and help sustain other businesses in the global agricultural supply chain, such as corn and soybean farming.

Smithfield Foods’ biosecurity policy covers the animal production process at individual farms, as well as the movement of vehicles, animals, personnel and equipment between these facilities. This policy is strictly enforced at all company-owned and contract grower farms and focuses on preventing contaminants from being brought onto farms from other locations.

For example, employees and visitors must “shower-in” and change into clean clothing before entering all sow farms and must also “shower-out” prior to leaving. In addition, equipment and supplies delivered to sow farms, as well as vehicles, must be disinfected prior to being allowed inside the farm complex.

Smithfield Foods’ animal care specialists and veterinarians collaborate with regulatory agencies, state veterinarians and industry organizations in the United States that are leading a coordinated effort to help protect against ASF and other diseases that may pose a threat to animals. Facility employees who work with livestock are also trained and supervised by government veterinarians.

Additionally, Smithfield Foods has invested in enhanced supply chain mechanisms, training and inventory management of animal health products that are imported into the United States, such as vitamins. The company has increased inventory and hold times of these products to further mitigate any exposure to ASF.

A Case Study: ASF Precautions in Poland and Romania

The Smithfield Foods teams in Poland and Romania performed a thorough risk analysis of ASF and learned that people entering the farms and what they bring with them were the biggest risk factors.

According to Pawel Iskrzak, director of operations for Smithfield Foods in Poznan, Poland, his team implemented a ban on bringing any food onto the farm and worked with a catering company to provide lunch to team members.

In addition to the above precautions and implementation of meal catering that follows strict biosecurity procedures, the company has employed additional measures to prevent the spread of ASF in Poland and Romania, which exceed local government mandates.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • A weekly newsletter with updates on the evolution of ASF in the region;
  • Specialized disinfection equipment; and
  • Moving the first biosecurity checkpoint further from the barn.

Additionally, employees on international farms receive supplementary animal care training upon hire and are certified to European Union (EU) laws and other relevant standards.

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