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Prevention of Illegal Swill Feeding to Pigs

October 12, 2015
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Last week Dania Thanker commenced working in the food safety unit (on secondment) on the implementation of the communication strategy regarding prevention of illegal swill feeding to pigs.

Currently, Australia is free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which is a highly contagious virus and one of the most serious livestock diseases (note: FMD is a different disease to hand-foot-mouth disease which affects mostly children).  The Victorian Auditor General has warned that food waste containing the virus may be illegally imported into Australia, undetected by quarantine.  Banning the feeding of prohibited waste to pigs (swill feed – food waste containing meat, imported dairy products and other mammalian products or by-products) provides an important defence against the introduction of this disease to Australia.  Although this is not known to be a common practice in Australia, one breach could be enough to cause an outbreak in Australia causing serious livestock production losses and significantly impact trade in livestock and livestock products.

What does this mean for council?
The Biosecurity Division of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) requires your assistance to improve regulatory oversight of illegal swill feeding:

  *   The Department have a one page flyer they would like you to distribute to every food business to promote awareness of swill feeding issues.

  *   The ideal way to distribute the flyer is during the mailing of the renewal of registration forms to your food businesses which most councils will be starting shortly.

  *   During the course of 2016 ensure all food safety program templates have reference to the disposal of food waste.

DEDJTR is responsible for the developing policy, standards, delivery systems and services aimed and preserving market access for Victoria’s livestock industries.  DEDJTR is working in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to improve swill feeding to pigs by developing a communication strategy and action plan to better integrate its swill feeding activities and promote awareness of swill feeding issues among food outlets and small scale pig owners.  Feeding swill to pigs is illegal in Australia under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, because swill to pigs may contain exotic disease agents including (FMD).   DEDJTR has identified this illegal activity as creating a particularly high risk for livestock health and primary production in Victoria.   Of all Australian states and territories, Victoria is considered most at risk of an FMD outbreak due to its temperature climate and intensive livestock production systems.

What DHHS need to know from you
*   When do you send your renewal of registration forms to businesses?  Do you send these by mail, electronically or mail merge?

*   DHHS can provide the flyer hard copy or electronically.  If you would like a hard copy of the flyer, how many do you need (no need to include premises on streatrader as they will receive a flyer direct)?

*   When do you need the flyer by so that it can be included with the renewal of registration?

*   Would it be useful to have the template insert in a tear off pad to distribute to businesses during annual assessments?

Please email your responses by Thursday 15 October 2015.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on biosecurity defines biosecurity as ‘the management of risks to the economy, the environment, and the community of pests and diseases entering, emerging, establishing or spreading’.

Victoria remains free of many pests and diseases.  This has provided its agricultural industries with a significant competitive advantage and helped maintain access to premium export markets.  It also supports sustainable growth and increased employment in the livestock industry sector.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Victoria’s food and fibre exports totalled $11.4 billion in 2013-14, while the gross value of agricultural commodities – including meat, milk derived products, eggs, hides, skins and animal fibre was $12.7 billion.

Biosecurity measures also provide significant public health benefits.  This is because a number of animal diseases can be transmitted to humans.  These are known as zoonotic diseases.  People in close contact with high numbers of livestock animals, such as farmers, shearers and veterinarians, are at a higher risk of contracting a zoonotic disease that could then be transferred to the general population.

Despite Victoria’s advantageous animal biosecurity status, remaining free of many pests and diseases, exotic and other emergency animal diseases remain an ever-present threat to Victoria’s livestock industries.  The 2001 outbreak of FMD in the United kingdom is estimated to have caused more than US$12 billion in losses and the slaughter of more than six million sheep and cattle to eradicate the disease.  The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences estimates that the impact on Australia’s economy of a large scale, multi-state outbreak of FMD would be $52 billion over a ten year period.

While the Commonwealth biosecurity framework focuses on quarantine control at borders and on import and  export inspection and certification, state and territory governments are responsible for preventing the establishment of livestock diseases and responding to outbreaks within their own borders.  The Victorian livestock biosecurity system composes of producers, processors, saleyards, stock agents, transporters, veterinary practitioners, veterinary laboratories and government agencies.

DEDJTR works closely with other Australian, state and territory government agencies to support their detection and management of outbreaks of pests and disease, and to support verification and certification activities for agriculture and food products.  DHHS is responsible for managing zoonotic threats from a human health perspective.  This includes responding to and controlling zoonotic disease outbreaks.  DEDJTR also has a role in protecting public health through controlling zoonotic diseases. DEDJTR and DHHS collaborate in planning, surveillance, managing, responding to and controlling zoonotic disease.  This is managed through the 2010 memorandum of understanding between the former departments of Health and Primary Industries.

In early 2015 the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) wrote to the Secretary of DHHS formally advising the department of an audit of Biosecurity regarding Livestock.  The primary focus of the audit is in relation to the review of biosecurity issues as they relate to livestock in Victoria, recommending that DEDJTR, DHHS  and local government work together to improve oversight of illegal swill feeding.

Other actions
DEDJTR and the Victorian Food Safety Unit (FSU) have agreed to a series of actions that will strengthen the regulatory oversight in a way that is effective and least burdensome for local government EHOs.

FSU actions include:
*   By 31 January 2016, update of the standard Food Safety Program Template that require food businesses to disclose to inspecting council EHOs how they dispose of food waste and that swill feeding is illegal.  EHOs to distribute to businesses during their annual assessments throughout 2016.

*   Advising food safety auditors of the changes.

*   The Streatrader system will ensure all users receive this flyer electronically.

*   Informing developers of the 28 proprietary food safety program templates that are used by 2800 businesses.

*   Creating and on-line and hard copy food waste notification proforma that council EHOs can use to notify the biosecurity division of DEDJTR of businesses supplying food waste to farms, schools or home by 31 January 2016.

*   Informing Foodbank of the requirements.

For further reading about swill feeding, please click here.

Should you have any queries, please contact Dania directly on 9096 0410.