Help keep African Swine Fever out of Northern Ireland

Date published: 17 October 2023

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is urging people to be vigilant following confirmation of African Swine Fever (ASF) in a number of countries across Europe.


ASF has now reached Sweden with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) reporting multiple outbreaks of wild boar in that country. The disease can spread due to inadequate biosecurity by pig keepers, or by tourists and visitors bringing pork products, such as smoked and cured meats, into Northern Ireland (NI) from affected countries.

This recent jump has caused concern amongst many countries and DAERA is highlighting the need for vigilance to keep it out of Northern Ireland.  The overall risk of an incursion to Northern Ireland (NI) has been assessed as moderate.

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Northern Ireland, Robert Huey, 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. We must remain vigilant and not become complacent of the risks.

“If the disease were to reach our shores, it would have a significant detrimental impact on our pig industry. It would have a devastating effect on export markets and would also require the humane culling of pigs on infected premises to prevent further spread."

He added: “No matter how many pigs you keep, you need to be aware of the potential consequences of feeding food waste to your animals. Not only is it illegal, but you run the risk of spreading disease which could be fatal to your livestock.  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.”

Everyone has a part to play in protecting Northern Ireland against the risk of introducing animal or plant disease through the import of Products of Animal Origin or plant materials.

One of the main ways that ASF can spread is through tourists or people travelling bringing potentially contaminated pork products with them from affected areas.  It is illegal to bring these products into NI because of the risk to animal health and welfare, the potential to affect human health and the devastating impact they could have on the economy.  The virus survives incredibly well in pork meat and can survive for months in smoked, dried and cured meats.

Good biosecurity practices including strict hygiene measures are also essential in preventing the 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.

A range of pig foods can be purchased from local agricultural merchants that can be safely fed to pigs.  This is the most reliable way of giving them a balanced diet.

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. A preliminary outbreak assessment on the ASF cases in Sweden conducted by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) can be accessed here.
  3. 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. This is enforced in NI by the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) Regulations (NI) 2015.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office at:
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours 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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