VIDEO: Global feed industry’s top biosecurity challenges in 2021

Dr. John Clifford, USAPEEC veterinary trade adviser, discusses 2021 biosecurity threats and animal feed as a fomite for pathogens.

USAPEEC veterinary trade adviser Dr. John Clifford provides his take on the top biosecurity, pathogen challenges for animal feed producers

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic taught the common citizen a lot about basic biosecurity measures and disease transfer — many lessons which are common practice and knowledge to animal agriculture stakeholders. However, despite the best efforts of global animal feed producers, the threat of feed as a fomite for transmitting animal disease remains a constant challenge. In recent years, the devastating losses due to poultry and livestock diseases, such as African swine fever (ASF), porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and avian influenza, have made headlines, but what can feed producers do moving forward to keep their products and facilities safe?

Dr. John Clifford, veterinary trade adviser for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, dialed in to Feed Strategy Chat to discuss what he feels are the main disease threats to animal feed production in 2021 and reflected on his main takeaways from the five-part “animal feed as a fomite for pathogens” Anitox webinar series he hosted this year.

What are the main biosecurity challenges the global feed industry faces in 2021? from WATT Global Media on Vimeo.

Video transcript: Interview with Dr. John Clifford

Jackie Roembke, editor, Feed Strategy: Hello everyone and welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I am your host, Jackie Roembke, editor of Feed Strategy magazine.

This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by Anitox, a global leader in feed additives for improving feed safety and animal health. Anitox stands ready — as it has done for more than 40 years — to partner with the world’s leading food producers to ensure their feed is free from contamination, right up to the point of consumption. For more information about Anitox, visit

Today, we are joined on Zoom by Dr. John Clifford, the veterinary trade adviser for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and the host of a recent five-part webinar series exploring animal feed as a fomite for pathogens, presented by Feed Strategy and sponsored by Anitox.

How are you, Dr. Clifford?

Dr. John Clifford, veterinary trade adviser, USAPEEC: Good, Jackie, how are you today?

Roembke: I’m doing well. Thank you. Well, let’s get right into it. In your opinion, what do you identify as the main biosecurity challenges facing the global animal feed industry in 2021?

Clifford: Well, I think I would like to start answering this question by going a little bit back in history to when I was still the chief veterinary officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s veterinary services. At that time in 2013, we had a porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) enter this country, which we know actually came from a Chinese origin. So that particular virus we felt came in through feed, although there was no proof of that. So that was one of the first things that really highlighted feed as a fomite for me — or a potential fomite. And then during the 2014-2015 outbreak of avian influenza, while we know the initial introduction wasn’t from feed in my inspections of farms and locations in Minnesota and Iowa, I saw feed sitting outdoors where ducks and geese were all over it and, basically, defecating on it, and which indicated to me another potential fomite for not just avian influenza, but things like Salmonella or other types of issues. So it really heightened my awareness of those issues and my concerns, and they followed me into my retirement as well and, and therefore Anitox’s requests for me to host that webinar series.

I would break down [the 2021 biosecurity challenges] in to two issues: the international component and the domestic component.

The international component has greater issues because of the types of diseases that transboundary diseases that can enter this country. They can be extremely devastating to the loss of livestock to diseases like African swine fever (ASF), foot-and-mouth disease, cholera, as well as diseases like PEDv or delta coronavirus in pigs.

In addition, with regards to the current knowledge we have with regards to those issues and diseases, and work Dr. Megan Niederwerder presented in her webinar, we know that they can be a potential fomite for those types of diseases and introduced into this country. Currently, there’s no regulations in the U.S. by FDA, or by APHIS that addresses this issue. And, therefore, the risk is real, with potential introduction of these diseases based upon our knowledge and the research that’s been done thus far.

In addition, domestically, we can move diseases like avian influenza, like PEDv, or like Salmonella around in feeds as a fomite. Our consumers demand good wholesome food for their families. So when you feed your family, your children, your loved ones, you want good wholesome food that you know is safe, but also wholesome — same thing for animals. Whether we’re feeding our pets or a food animal, we should know that that product is safe that we’re feeding them. So that’s the big picture for feed in the future, it needs to be a primary focus, it needs to be separated out from the standpoint of biosecurity from the everyday biosecurity practices, and focused on more more broadly — both domestically and internationally — because of its risk of introduction of fomites, whether it be Salmonella or one of these other diseases.

I think the the risk is really real. And I think it’s time for our regulatory agencies, our industries to get together and try to address these issues, so that we can reduce the potential risk of these diseases and the spread of them to protect human health and animal health as well.

Roembke: Very good. So looking back at the five-part Anitox webinar series, you and your team of experts covered a lot of ground. But what do you think were the most notable revelations from those discussions?

Clifford: Well, actually, I enjoyed all five and I thought they were, all five, really good. But I think the two most is one of already mentioned is Dr. Megan Niederwerder‘s work on showing that transboundary diseases, like ASF can be transmitted in feed can survive for long periods of time in that environment. But the other one was Dr. Nikki Shariat’s work in the CRISPR area, she’s been able to show that when you have Salmonella, oftentimes when you’re culturing Salmonella, you may have one primary Salmonella type that kind of overburdens the rest of the serovars that may be present in that sample. But with CRISPR technology, they’re now able to find those other types and by being able to do that indicate the full volume of potential risk of Salmonella that might be present in that environment. And so for the future, what you can do with those is address those but also help develop vaccines and other mitigations to be able to try to reduce said risk and eliminate those as future problems for your flock or herd.

Roembke: Thank you, Dr. Clifford. It was great speaking with you today. And thanks to our audience for tuning in. If you’d like more information about Anitox and their products, visit or to view the webinar series mentioned in this chat, visit

Read more from Dr. Clifford in his op-ed reflecting on the Anitox webinar series

Dr. Clifford’s webinar series

Below you will find links to the on-demand archive of Dr. Clifford’s webinar series on feed as a fomite for pathogens where animal feed manufacturers, poultry and swine nutritionists, and biosecurity and safety professionals learn about new research and proven innovative mitigation strategies to prevent pathogen transmission in the earliest stages of the food supply chain. The webinar series was proudly sponsored by Anitox and presented by Feed Strategy and WATT Global Media.

Webinar 1: Could local sourcing help control feed ingredients’ microbial quality?

Presented by Bobby Acord, former administrator, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Webinar 2: CRISPR-SeroSeq as a tool to reveal Salmonella populations

LIVE BROADCAST ONLY. If you would like a copy of this presentation, contact the presenter, Dr. Nikki Shariat, at [email protected].

Webinar 3: How technology could help predict future PEDv outbreaks

Presented by Dr. Gustavo Machado, assistant professor, Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, North Carolina State University

Webinar 4: Risk and mitigation of African swine fever in feed

Presented by Dr. Megan Niederwerder, assistant professor, Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Webinar 5: Can the industry improve Salmonella controls to maintain consumer trust?

Presented by Dr. Charles Hofacre, president of Southern Poultry Research Group