Is it possible for African swine fever (ASF) virus to be transmitted through feed? The answer is yes, and this is not news.
Viruses can use feed, and several other vectors, alive or not, to jump from one host to another. Some feed ingredients are inherently more risky than others, in regard to their composition and/or natural origin, and their risk of exposure to the virus. The first is always what draws attention in public and private forums, but the latter is something that has been only slightly broached in the case of ASF.
As it happens, the global animal feed industry depends very heavily on ingredients sourced almost exclusively from a region that has been badly hit with the disease. And, as the disease runs amok without any sight of it getting under serious control, it is a matter of time before we ask ourselves this very simple question: Is it still wise to buy so many feed ingredients from a region struck by such an impossible disease, only because they are cheaper, when we expect to sell pig meat to the very same region, only to make more money? The answer can be approached by discussing biosecurity protocols among other things, but behind all these, people will eventually ask about the very simple truth of the matter: Do we trust them?
And, to make things even more gloomy, in hopes that something might change, how wise remains the notion of concentrating all related industries in one single location? Should we not have a backup plan for cases like this one? Or, do we get to accept such risk as collateral damage if (or when) diseases like ASF hit major production centers? Going back to history of this and many other industries, I fear we will learn nothing out of this new experience. Instead, we will just wait for yet another disease to become another nuisance as it runs its cycle, devastating the livelihood of unlucky pig producers throughout the world. It has happened so many times already.
View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.