CHICAGO (Reuters) — The largest U.S. grain industry group plans to fund studies examining whether animal feed may be spreading a virus that has killed millions of baby pigs.
The National Grain and Feed Association will donate $60,000 to the National Pork Board for research on how feed might be associated with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, according to a statement.
The board wants to assess the risks of PED contaminating animal feed “at all steps within the feed processing and delivery chain” and to study treatments that could deactivate the virus if it is present in feed. Industry officials also want to develop procedures to test whether animals become sick after consuming feed that contains genetic material for PED.
The highly contagious virus, which does not affect humans or food safety, is known to be transmitted among pigs through feces. Many hog producers suspect it is also spread through pig blood products used in feed.
More research is needed to confirm a link, said David Fairfield, the association’s vice-president of feed services.
“There are a lot of rumours,” he said. “A lot of people have different theories.”
Rabobank said losses from PED in the United States could cut pork production by as much as seven percent this year, which is a much steeper decline than government estimates for a two percent fall.
The National Pork Board said it has received more than $2.1 million in donations to study PED since the virus was first identified in the U.S. a year ago.