The feed probe was triggered on 9 February 2013 after the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) found that US-origin porcine blood plasma used in feed pellets produced by Grand Valley Fortifiers tested positive for PED virus RNA.
As a precautionary measure, the Ontario feed firm voluntarily withdrew the potentially affected feed pellets from the marketplace.
On 18 February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said that testing it conducted with a swine bioassay showed that the blood plasma ingredient used in feed pellets produced by Grand Valley Fortifiers contained “live virus capable of causing disease in piglets.”
The agency then said it would continue testing to see whether the feed pellets in question were capable of causing piglets to fall ill.
Samples of both the feed pellets and the porcine blood plasma ingredient were submitted to the country's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) for further analysis.
And, late last night, the CFIA confirmed that this examination was unable to determine that the feed pellets containing the blood plasma were capable of causing disease.
PED virus death toll
There is no known effective vaccine for the PED virus, which is deadly for nursing pigs but not adult pigs.
The virus has already killed millions of piglets in the US since May 2013. In Canada, cases have been confirmed in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and in Quebec.
Reaction from Grand Valley Fortifiers
Ian Ross, CEO of Grand Valley Fortifiers, who has been urging the feed sector to drop porcine origin products from their pig feeds since the contamination incident at his firm, told FeedNavigator.com today:
“The official CFIA update released last night indicates that, to date, the piglets selected for the pelleted nursery feed bioassay have not become infected with the PED virus. To our knowledge, this pelleted nursery feed bioassay continues.
The CFIA release of 18 February indicated that the pigs directly fed the same batch of plasma that we had been using since 9 January 2014 contained live virus capable of infecting pigs.
I am told that there will be a full report of this trial written and published indicating the trial protocol as well as the results. When this report is made available to the public, we believe that more questions will be answered on this subject.”
Ross said Grand Valley Fortifiers, with the knowledge it now has, is confident that it made “the correct and prudent decision on 9 February to recall its pelleted nursery feeds that contain porcine plasma and warn the industry that porcine origin ingredients may pose a risk of transmission of the PED virus.”
Producer “understands” industry concerns
Louis Russell, President and CEO of APC, one of the largest producers of porcine plasma in North America, said the investigation by the CFIA has been thorough and has shown no relation between the spread of the PED virus and feed.
However, he told FeedNavigator.com that he understands the position of Grand Valley Fortifiers and the concerns of the industry over the safety of blood plasma.
APC, said Russell, is continuing to run bioassay trials to conclusively prove to the swine industry that its products are safe to use in feed.
“We recently inoculated liquid plasma with the PED virus and found that spray-drying does inactivate the pathogen.
We are also looking to see if there are any other process steps that we could take to further ensure the inactivation of the PED virus, and any other pathogens,” he added.
Porcine plasma, said Russell, is a unique ingredient and is critical for the swine sector.
“As well as improving feed conversion and growth rates, porcine blood plasma significantly reduces the stress of piglets when they are being weaned from the sow,” he added.
Ongoing testing in Canada and the US
The CFIA said it will continue to analyze feed and feed ingredients, as well as epidemiological information gathered during the investigation and will examine any new lines of enquiry related to feed that may emerge, in particular from ongoing testing in Canada and the US.
The food inspection agency said that the PED virus can spread rapidly through contact with sick animals, as well as through people’s clothing, hands, equipment, boots, and other tools contaminated with the faeces of infected animals.
“Therefore, considering the characteristics of PED virus and how it spreads, adhering to good biosecurity protocols remains the best measure to prevent further introduction or spread of this disease in Canada,” it added.