Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay has asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to examine its transportation protocols as PED virus spreads rapidly in Manitoba.
The province has reported 22 cases of the pig disease since May 2.
CFIA discontinued a pilot truck washing protocol a year ago that was implemented after the initial 2014 outbreak.
Trucks taking feeders south were tagged at the U.S. border and went to special wash stations upon return to Canada.
Many believe reinstating strict washing would help contain the disease.
Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson told the House of Commons agriculture committee in Ottawa last week that the industry needs to catch some breaks to get on top of the problem.
He said the trailers hauling feeders are “like a little piece of Canada” that go across the border to U.S. farms.
“We want to preserve that trailer, bring it across the border, still a little piece of Canada, and we can clean it up in Canada, where we were able to contain the disease,” Dickson said.
CFIA has said there is no scientific proof that trucks are spreading the disease. Trucks hauling slaughter animals must only be scraped clean.
Chief federal veterinarian Harpreet Kochhar said animal, human and equipment movement could all transmit the virus. Feed is also suspect.
Dickson said washing can control the virus if the water is heated to 60 C and disinfectants are used. However, in the U.S., where there are no certified wash stations, a trucker would have no idea if the water is the right temperature and if the right amount of disinfectant is used.
“I know from talking to people in Des Moines, Iowa, trucks roll in, they do a firehouse thing, blast the manure all over the place, and drive right out, at the same station we’re taking trailers to supposedly get 60 degrees Centigrade water and so on,” Dickson said.
“There’s nobody in charge of this thing. This is not appropriate, guys. We need to do a better job on this thing. The only way of doing that is to have inspectors at wash stations in Canada where we control the process and do this properly.”
He also said trailers coming into Manitoba are all rewashed even if they look clean.
MacAulay has asked the CFIA to meet with the provinces, particularly Manitoba, which are on the front lines of the problem.
“Officials at the CFIA have been instructed to sit down with provincial counterparts to explore potential solutions related to washing trucks that cross the border,” he said in a statement.
Claude Vielfaure, president of Hylife Ltd., told the committee the company has struggled with the virus at its 11 sites in the past month. One previous outbreak last year was quickly eradicated.
“But this year the virus is spreading faster and is more widespread, which has created a lot of virus shedding and has impacted surrounding sites at an alarming rate,” he said. “Although we are maintaining strong biosecurity protocols, in most instances we believe the virus is being spread with no direct link to pig movements but is spreading by air.”
Vielfaure said fences between Hylife sites were swabbed and found to be contaminated, and that could happen only by air transmission.
Meanwhile, Greg Douglas, a former chief veterinarian in Saskatchewan and Ontario, said the CFIA has to take a larger role in animal health.
Douglas, who is now vice-president of animal care for Maple Leaf Foods, told the committee that there has been a lack of collaboration, communication and transparency in dealing with PED in Manitoba, particularly with smaller producers.
He said CFIA didn’t offer much help when PED was first discovered in Ontario in January 2014 but eventually provided some biosecurity and feed testing assistance.
“I don’t think the CFIA has a strong animal health presence,” Douglas said. “I think they need to re-engage in emerging diseases.”
PED isn’t federally reportable, but Douglas said that shouldn’t matter when it is affecting several provinces.
He said outbreaks are occurring more often, and animal health is constantly under threat.
“Right now CFIA reports to Health Canada, and animal health seems to be orphaned there since they aren’t reporting as directly to Agriculture Canada.”