Help keep African Swine Fever out of Northern Ireland

Date published: 03 February 2022

Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots MLA has reminded pig owners about the risk of African Swine Fever (ASF) following a confirmed case in a wild boar in Northern Italy.


ASF is already present in a number of countries across Europe. The risk of an incursion to the UK has been assessed as medium and continues to cause concern.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said: “To date there has never been a case of ASF in the UK or Ireland and while there is no human health risk with the disease, it is easily transmitted in pork products and is potentially fatal to pigs.

“If the disease were to reach our shores, it could have a devastating effect on export markets and would also require the humane culling of pigs on infected premises to prevent further spread. I stress the need of maintaining a high level of biosecurity, make sure that your pigs do not access any kitchen waste, only feed your pigs a purchased pig ration and to remain vigilant for signs of disease for early detection of the disease.”

Everyone has a part to play in protecting Northern Ireland (NI) against the risk of introducing animal or plant disease through the import of Products of Animal Origin (PoAO) or plant materials. There are strict rules about bringing food products, plants and plant products into NI. For more info on the rules, please visit the DAERA website.

Furthermore good biosecurity practices including strict hygiene measures are essential in preventing disease – people should not take meat or meat products into areas where pigs are kept and should only eat food in designated areas such as staff rooms or the farm kitchen. Pig keepers, farm staff and anyone in contact with pigs should wash their hands before and after eating or preparing food.

Keepers are being reminded that it is illegal to feed catering waste of any description or domestic food waste to farm animals in the UK, including pigs kept as pets.  It should be noted some of the outbreaks of ASF in Europe have been attributed to domestic pigs consuming contaminated pork or pork products.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Robert Huey said: “The introduction of African Swine Fever would have a significant detrimental impact on our pig industry. No matter how many pigs you keep, you need to be aware of the potential consequences of feeding waste food to your animals. Not only is it illegal, but you run the risk of spreading disease which could be fatal to your livestock.

“You can purchase a range of pig foods from your local agricultural merchant that can be safely fed to your pigs and which is the most reliable way of giving them a balanced diet. The need for consistent excellent biosecurity is also paramount in minimising disease risk, such as providing dedicated clothing and boots for workers and preventing vehicles which may be contaminated from entering pig premises.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs.  It can be spread through direct contact with infected pigs, faeces or body fluids; indirect contact via fomites, such as equipment, vehicles or people who work with pigs between pig farms with ineffective biosecurity; pigs eating infected pig meat or meat products.
  2. European Union wide animal by-product legislation states that feeding farmed animals with catering waste or feed material containing, or derived from catering waste, is illegal. Doing so can result in prosecution.
  3. Fruit and vegetable material that originated outside the kitchen, which has never entered the kitchen, and which has not come into contact with material of animal origin can be fed, such as vegetables from domestic gardens.
  4. Further information on African Swine Fever, including good biosecurity measures,  clinical signs and questions and answers can be obtained from the DAERA website or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Office on 0300 200 7840. If you suspect African swine fever you should notify your local DAERA Direct Office.
  5. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hour’s service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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