Temporary safeguard measures to allow for the safe imports of live pigs from the US and Canada have on the 6 June 2014 been endorsed by Member State experts. Live pigs from these countries entering the EU will be tested for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) in order to protect a thriving European pig industry (22 million tons of pig meat produced each year, 13% of which are exported) from infection. Emerging PED viruses are circulating in North America affecting pigs and causing major losses particularly to the US pig industry. The USA and Canada are authorised to export live pigs to the EU - 900 pigs with a high genetic value were imported in 2013. These measures follow discussions held last week during the World Assembly of the World Organization for Animal Health and complement temporary import requirements agreed last month on pig blood products that may be used for feeding piglets. The Commission has also asked the European Food Safety Authority to carry out a scientific opinion on emerging PED viruses that will enable a more thorough review of the disease situation and risk mitigation measures. Member States were also reminded of the need to strengthen biosecurity at farm level.
On the 15 May 2014, at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH), the Commission and EU Member States' experts reviewed the most recent information on the epidemic of porcine diarrhoea in North America and Asia and possible risk mitigation measures to protect EU pigs. The current epidemic is causing major losses to the pig industry, in particular in the USA.
The Member States unanimously endorsed the measures below (see point B) with regards to the imports of live pigs and treatment of pig blood products.
A. Background information: Preliminary information indicates that the current epidemic is caused by two viruses:
- An Alphacoronavirus causing the classic "Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea". This is not a listed disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for international notification and therefore international standards do not exist for it. This Alphacoronavirus is present in the EU, there are no EU specific measures in place to control it within the EU and, in a consistent manner, also on imports.
- A new emerging deltacoronavirus. This new virus is a cause for specific concern, as there is no information available suggesting the occurrence of this virus in Europe.
- As in any high risk situation or when facing a new threat, the Member States were reminded on the need to strengthen biosecurity at farm level.
B. At the SCOFCAH, possible import restrictive measures to protect the EU pig population against the introduction of the disease and in particular of the emerging Deltacoronavirus were reviewed in relation with the following commodities:
- Live pigs: The current health rules for import of live animals from USA and Canada (around 250 animals last year) are already very stringent (they include quarantine). Given the current situation, the US and Canadian authorities have informed us that no consignments of live pigs are scheduled to be dispatched to the EU. For the US, we are informed that no pigs have started neither the 40 days pre-export residency period, nor the 30 days pre-export quarantine before export to the EU. It was therefore decided to review the appropriateness of the current import conditions at the next SCOFCAH meeting in June. After that the matter will be further discussed at the OIE General Session at the end of May;
- Pig blood products that may be used for feeding piglets, that are authorised for import from a number of third countries. Inappropriate heat treatment or contamination after heat treatment may lead to the spread of the virus with such products. Therefore, the Standing Committee endorsed a Commission draft establishing that those products can only imported after a treatment at 80 degrees that would inactivate any Coronavirus present in the product, followed by subsequent storage for six weeks at room temperature, that would inactivate any virus that may have contaminated the product after treatment;
- Pig semen: it was agreed that pig semen most likely poses a negligible risk of transmission of the Coronaviruses in question, and that standard risk mitigating measures on the import of semen (quarantine and absence of clinical sign of disease in the donor animal) are already in place, mitigating any possible risk.
The Commission intends to review the situation at the SCOFCAH meeting in early June.