Canada eyes animal feed as pig-killing virus spreads

WINNIPEG Wed Feb 19, 2014 1:16pm EST

WINNIPEG Manitoba/CHICAGO Feb 19 (Reuters) - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting tests to see if contaminated animal feed helped spread the piglet-killing Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) across several Canadian provinces.

The government agency said on Tuesday that testing has determined the virus was present in samples of U.S.-origin plasma obtained at the third-party manufacturer for Grand Valley Fortifiers, a livestock feed company based in the province of Ontario.

The plasma was used as an ingredient in the company's feed pellets, which Grand Valley recalled on Feb. 9. But CFIA said further testing will be done to assess whether the feed pellets are capable of causing the disease in piglets, with results expected in days.

Grand Valley said it decided to recall the feed products after a Kansas State University swine specialist team posted research recommending replacing porcine-based products in diets, removing all animal proteins except milk from diets, and testing porcine feed products.

"We believed the most prudent approach, given the information we had, was to inform customers to stop feeding those products, and to recall them, out of an abundance of caution and a desire to protect our customers' businesses," Grand Valley Chief Executive Ian Ross said in an interview.

PEDv causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in hogs.

The virus, which has killed between 1 million and 4 million pigs in the United States since April 2013, was first detected on a Canadian farm on January 22. It has now been confirmed on 16 farms in Ontario, as well as in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.

The virus, which is already established in Europe and Asia, poses no threat to humans and is not a food safety risk, according to the Canadian Swine Health Board.

Manitoba-based Landmark Feeds, owned by Nutreco NV of the Netherlands, said last week it will now only use Canadian-manufactured sources of spray-dried plasma in piglet feed until the situation is clarified.