ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — A new research project will endeavor to prepare North American feed mills with guidance and best practices for decontamination should they experience an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), a highly contagious and deadly pig disease that has devastated swine herds across Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), Animal Nutrition Association of Canada (ANAC) and United Soybean Board (USB) have joined with the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) to launch a research project that will evaluate several methods for cleaning and disinfecting feed mills following a potential ASF outbreak.

In the summer of 2021, ASF was detected in the Caribbean, the closest it has ever been to the US mainland. Recent estimates show that an outbreak of ASF in the United States could cost upwards of $50 billion to the US economy.

“With partnership across the allied feed-related groups to benefit the US swine herd, SHIC is encouraged to see this project move forward,” said Paul Sundberg, executive director, SHIC, D.V.M., PhD, DACVPM. “We have learned that once ASF virus is in a feed mill, it will remain in that environment for a long time. This work is essential to address this risk to the US swine herd.” 

The information gained from the study’s results will inform North American feed industries’ ASF preparedness plans as well as feed mill biosecurity plans to minimize supply chain and trade disruptions in the event of an outbreak.

The 12- to 18-month project will examine the optimal methods for disinfecting feed mills, paying particularly close attention to feed manufacturing equipment that is not designed for disinfection. Researchers will test several disinfection and flushing procedures using three viruses known to be most stable in feed and endemic in the United States — Seneca Virus A (SVA), porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). The project will also determine the infectivity of feed and environmental samples after completely flushing and decontaminating equipment.

The feed inoculation and manufacturing will occur in Kansas State University’s Cargill Feed Safety Research Center, which includes a pilot-scale feed mill with pelleting capabilities and is approved for handling biosafety level 2 pathogens. Samples tested for infectivity will occur at Iowa State University.

Lara Moody, executive director, IFEEDER, said the US feed industry has taken steps to improve biosecurity to reduce the risk of AFS introduction and transmission at feed mills, but a knowledge gap exists within the milling process, should an outbreak occur. She said there are currently no best practices recommendations to decontaminate a feed manufacturing facility experiencing an outbreak.

“With the support of American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) members, we are backing this research to provide guidance to companies to quickly and safely get their operations back up and running, minimizing any long-term shutdowns, which could have detrimental food supply chain and economic consequences,” Moody said.