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African Swine Fever
- African swine fever (ASF) is a highly infectious viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs.
- ASF was limited to sub-Saharan Africa, but has spread across Europe into Asia and has now reached East Timor.
- If ASF gets into Australia, it poses a major threat to our pig meat and associated industries, which contribute approximately $2.8 billion to the economy and employ 34,000 people.
- Australia’s biosecurity officers are on heightened alert at airports, ports and mail processing centres.
- People can play a role in spreading African swine fever but are not affected by the disease.
- To keep the disease out of Australia, everyone has a responsibility:
- Do not bring any meat products into Australia illegally or let anyone send you meat products through the mail.
- If you own pigs, do not feed them swill or any feed that contains meat, meat products or anything that has come into contact with meat or meat products. See more about swill feeding
See the latest updates on ASF in Australia at the Animal Health Australia website page on ASF.
See the Australian Department of Agriculture advice on keeping ASF out of Australia, including what you can do.
What is African swine fever?
African swine fever (ASF) is a highly infectious viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs of all ages. An outbreak of ASF in Australia would have a significant effect on pig health and production. Mortality rates can be very high. The occurrence and spread of ASF in Australia could have a potentially devastating impact on the pork industry which is worth $1.28 billion, as well as flow on impacts to the Australian economy.
It would also compromise our access to economically important international markets and be very costly and difficult to eradicate.
People are not affected by ASF but can inadvertently help it spread.
What is the risk of African swine fever entering Australia?
African swine fever is spreading across Europe and Asia and poses a major threat to pig-producing countries that are free of the disease, such as Australia. Recent testing of pork products seized at our international airports and mail processing centres over a two-week period found evidence of ASF virus in 6 of 152 products tested (Keeping Australia free from African Swine Fever).
How does African swine fever spread?
The virus causing ASF can enter into Australia in a variety of ways. The most likely way is through illegally imported pig meat or other pig products. The virus can survive cooking, smoking, drying and freezing for several months and disease could occur if a pig is exposed to an infected product.
Feeding meat, meat products or anything that has been in contact with meat or meat products to pigs, including pet pigs and pigs kept on your property for your own consumption is also known as swill feeding and is against the law. Read more about swill feeding.
If a pig gets ASF by eating infected material, the disease can spread from pig to pig through faeces, urine and other discharges or through feed, equipment, vehicles and clothing that have been contaminated with the virus.
What are the signs of African swine fever?
Signs that are seen in infected pigs can vary, but include:
- loss of/ irregular appetite
- blotchy red or black skin
- abortions and sudden death
Further information can be found on the Australian Pork website.
What can you do?
Everyone has a responsibility to help keep ASF and other exotic diseases out of Australia.
- If visiting or returning to Australia be aware of your biosecurity obligations. Check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.
- Declare on your Incoming Passenger Card any food and animal products and other risk items, including footwear and equipment that has been in contact with animals or worn in a rural area.
- The safest thing to do is not bring food with you, and make sure your items are clean before you pack your bags.
- Do not allow anyone to send you any meat or meat products through the mail.
- When buying goods online, consider whether they will meet our biosecurity conditions when they arrive in Australia. check what can and cannot be mailed to Australia.
- If you do receive any meat or meat products through the mail, the easiest way to reduce the risk of introducing ASF is to eat the product and dispose of the wrapping and any left-over food in a way and place where it could not be touched by any pigs, including wild pigs. For example, double bagging the waste and placing it in scavenger proof bins to be collected for disposal via either incineration or deep burial at official waste sites.
If you own pigs, provide pig owners with food for their animals or have any contact with pigs:
- Do not feed meat, meat products or anything that has come into contact with meat or meat products to pigs.
- Report any unusual deaths or behaviours in pigs, including feral pigs, to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.
Further information on the main exotic diseases that could affect our pig industry and biosecurity practices that can help prevent the introduction and spread of these diseases can be found on the Australian Pork Limited website.
- Feeding pigs swill containing meat or product that has come into contact with meat or meat products is illegal in Australia due to the risk that it could introduce an exotic animal disease.
- If you are unsure of what you can or can’t feed your pigs seek guidance from your state or territory Department of Primary Industries.
- If you suspect pigs are being fed prohibited pig feed or if your pigs show serious or unusual signs or behaviour, call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888
What is swill and why is it illegal to feed swill to pigs?
Swill is the traditional name for waste food fed to pigs, often as a slurry. Swill containing meat or product that has come into contact with meat or meat products is now a “prohibited pig feed”. In Australia it is illegal to feed any product classified as “prohibited pig feed” to pigs, this includes pet pigs and pigs kept on your property for your own consumption.
Feeding pigs those foods which are now prohibited is considered one of the most likely ways that an exotic animal disease such as foot and mouth disease or African swine fever could be introduced into Australia.
The impact of an exotic animal disease outbreak to our livestock industries and the Australian economy could be devastating. It has been estimated that a large scale outbreak of foot and mouth disease could cost the Australian economy approximately $50 billion over 10 years.
What food is considered prohibited pig feed?
Mammalian meat, meat products and any food that has come into contact with meat or meat products is prohibited feed and must not be fed to, or supplied for the feeding of, pigs. This includes:
- pies, sausage rolls, bacon and cheese rolls, pizza, salami and other delicatessen meats or table scraps
- household, commercial or industrial waste including restaurant food and discarded cooking oils
- anything that has been in contact with prohibited pig feed via collection, storage or transport in contaminated containers (such as meat trays and take-away food containers)
Pig owners must ensure that their pigs do not have accidental access to prohibited pig feed.
What food can be fed to pigs?
Pigs may be fed:
- milk, milk products and milk by-products of Australian origin or legally imported into Australia for stockfeed use
- dry meal made from meat, blood or bone processed by commercial hot rendering and purchased from a reputable produce store or feed merchant
- bakery food substances that do not contain, or have had contact with, meat or meat products
- fruit, vegetables and cereals
If in doubt, only feed pigs quality assured, commercially available pig feed.
Responsible disposal of food waste
Businesses that prepare and sell food e.g. restaurants, bakeries, hotels, fast food outlets, hospitals and those involved in the handling, transport and disposal of food waste need to understand their legal responsibility to dispose of this waste appropriately. Food waste that constitutes prohibited pig feed must not be disposed of in any way that would make it available for feeding to pigs.
Reporting swill feeding or an exotic disease
If you suspect pigs are being fed prohibited pig feed, please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.