An increased focus on biosecurity warranted

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY – Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) may not be the sexiest topic to write about, but it is deserving of the entire food and beverage industry’s attention. With little or no warning it has swept through much of the U.S. swine herd and upended the pork market.

As of yet there is no vaccine to halt the progression of the virus. Only stringent biosecurity measures have proven effective in slowing its spread, but even such measures are far from perfect.

In April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a federal order requiring disease reporting. The order also requires the tracking movements of pigs, vehicles and other equipment that leave affected premises so potential movement of the virus may be identified.

It is hoped that the spread of the virus also will be slowed with the heat of the summer, but at this point it is unclear whether seasonal changes will make a difference. The virus’ impact is undeniable. In the past week, both Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods have outlined the ramifications for their businesses.

While PEDv is currently making news as pork processors adjust and raise prices to offset the rising cost of raw materials, other food categories are facing their own crises. The citrus segment is dealing with the emergence of Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. The disease has devastated the Florida citrus industry and now is threatening California’s industry. The U.S.D.A. in conjunction with state and industry authorities are working to address the spread of Huanglongbing, but, much like PEDv, solutions have been elusive.

It is easy to look at these events as isolated incidences, but they underscore the need for strong biosecurity programs to stave off the emergence of such diseases. Increased trade and international travel will only increase the risk and all components of the supply chain must work to ensure the exposure and spread of such risks are mitigated.

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