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Brussels, 31 October 2002

New provisions for the control of Classical Swine Fever boost economic viability of pig farming and improve animal health

The Directive on the control of Classical Swine Fever (CSF) will apply as of tomorrow in the Member States, introducing new provisions aimed at better disease control. CSF is a very serious disease affecting domestic pigs and wild boar. There is no known risk that the CSF virus may cause any disease in humans, but its occurrence in the EU creates an obstacle to internal and international trade and outbreaks can cause significant economic losses. For these and for animal welfare reasons its eradication from the EU is one of the priorities in the animal health area.

The new rules introduced through Council Directive 2001/89/EC continue the eradication policy based on the culling of all pigs in farms infected with CSF, but they also foresee a possible but controlled use of vaccination in emergencies and use of oral vaccination of wild boar. Foreseeing new scientific developments, the Directive provides for the use of "marker vaccines", which together with laboratory testing currently under development will allow a distinction to be made between vaccinated and infected animals.

In another provision, the Directive bans the use of feeding catering waste to pigs (waste from food intended for human consumption originating in restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens), although the Commission may grant temporary and strictly controlled derogation to this ban, in accordance with the new Regulation on animal by-products (see IP/02/1361)

Commissioner Byrne welcomed the entry into force of the Directive, saying that: "The animal health status of the EU is of vital importance: healthy animals give us healthy food. In addition to food safety and animal welfare considerations, outbreaks of animal diseases such as CSF lead to significant economic losses. We do not need to look further than the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis for a poignant reminder of why we need to remain vigilant in our work to control animal diseases."

Past difficulties

In recent years, the control of CSF has been particularly difficult in some Member States, in particular in areas with a high density of pigs. The epidemic that occurred in 1997/98 necessitated the killing and destruction of a very large number of animals, demonstrating how heavy economic costs arise. Quite apart from the economics involved, slaughter on such a scale also raises ethical issues. The occurrence and persistence of CSF in wild boar, which has emerged in recent years in some areas of the Community and in some candidate countries is also an obstacle to disease eradication.

New provisions building on past experience

The new Directive takes into account the experience acquired in the control of CSF in the EU in recent years. In particular, it introduces provisions for better control of disease in areas with a high density of pigs. To avoid massive slaughter in such areas, emergency vaccination may be used, subject to evaluation and controls. The Commission is currently buying a stock of conventional vaccine for this purpose.

In future, it is expected that marker vaccines may be used in conjunction with appropriate laboratory testing (currently being developed) in order to distinguish between vaccinated animals and infected animals, a very important distinction that is not possible when using conventional vaccination. The use of marker vaccines will also be subject to evaluation and control and will only be used in emergency situations, after authorisation by the Commission on a case-by-case basis. Specific decisions on trade restrictions to apply to farms that have used the marker vaccines will also need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

The Directive includes provisions on the use of oral vaccination of the wild boar where other disease control measures prove ineffective. This has already been applied in Germany in a similar manner to the vaccination of foxes against rabies, a milestone in the successful strategy for the control of rabies in Europe during the past two decades.

The Directive further refines and reinforces existing control measures, for example by extending notification obligations and provisions on CSF diagnosis.

Swill feeding "almost" banned

The CSF Directive also bans the use of catering waste (swill) for feeding to pigs. This ban has now been overruled by the provisions of the Regulation on animal by-products (Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 October 2002), which bans the feeding of farmed animals other than fur animals with catering waste as from 1 November, but foresees the possibility for the Commission to grant a temporary relaxation of the ban for certain Member States where appropriate systems are in place prior to 1 November, under strictly controlled conditions to be established by the Commission.. The Commission is currently in the process of evaluating requests submitted by some Member States in this regard.

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