Swill plan brings virus threat
Source: FWi 14 October 2002

By Peter Crichton

NEW Defra rules on the use catering waste could bring a greater risk of foot-and-mouth than feeding treated swill to pigs, say industry experts.

The government banned swill feeding in May 2001, meaning that large quantities of catering and other feed waste was no longer available to the pig industry. 

Defra's latest proposals to deal with this material is to allow composted catering waste containing uncooked meat of up to 400mm in diameter to be spread on farmland. 

It has published a risk assessment suggesting that the composting procedure could present lower risks to animal health than the current process of disposal to landfill.

But former swill plant operators say it is more dangerous than the original heat-treatment process, which sterilised material before it was incorporated into animal feed. 

The Associated Swill Users' Group and the UK Renderers' Association say it would be almost impossible to accurately monitor composting temperatures and be sure that all parts of the material had been heated continuously to 600C for at least two days.

If just 0.01% of waste wasn't properly treated, and was applied to land and grazed in under two months, the risk of a foot-and-mouth or Swine Fever outbreak would increase 100,000-fold, it says.

Meanwhile, the National Pig Association claims that rules preventing cannibalism in the EU have been breached, with liquified pork fat included in some home mixed rations.

Imported pigmeat may therefore still contain meat and bone meal and other porcine products which have been banned in the UK.

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp says that to prevent further damage to the industry, consumers and retailers must insist that all pigmeat purchases are produced to the same standards of animal welfare and food safety as British pork.

Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry