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Ohio pork safe, despite West Virginia quarantine
By JANE HOUIN
Ohio correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite West Virginia’s recent quarantine of swine from Ohio livestock markets, Ohio Agriculture Director Fred Dailey says Ohio pork is safe to eat. The quarantined swine were exposed to Mycobacterium aviaum, commonly known as avian tuberculosis.

“I am exercising the powers granted to the Commissioner of Agriculture to ensure that this disease does not spread to any animals in this state and to protect consumers from products that could potentially sicken them,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass, who imposed a quarantine on four agricultural premises after the discovery of avian tuberculosis in hogs illegally imported from Ohio.

West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) food safety personnel discovered signs of tuberculosis in animals being processed at custom meat plants, prompting Douglass to activate the Department’s Food and Livestock Safety Team. Traces on the whereabouts of suspect animals were initiated and all of the original 206 animals have been accounted for, except for 5-8 hogs.

Some carcasses were still in processing facilities and were immediately condemned by WVDA’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Division. Some processed hogs had left facilities, but all those consumers were notified, and none of that meat has been consumed.

“In Ohio law, we have a list of 35 dangerously contagious and infectious diseases that science dictates should be reported by any farmer or veterinarian. This is not one of them,” Dailey said. “We have measures in place in our animal dealer law and through state and federal meat inspection to protect against common diseases.”

According to the ODA, avian tuberculosis is not a federally reportable disease and is not considered a disease of public health significance. However, the WVDA reports that the form of tuberculosis carried by the hogs is transmissible to humans through direct contact and through eating improperly cooked meat.

Symptoms include respiratory problems. Once contracted, the disease is difficult to treat and eventually may cause lesions inside the lungs.

The ODA stressed that federal and state food safety inspectors are present in every swine plant in Ohio to ensure that only safe and wholesome meat reaches consumers.

West Virginia custom slaughter facilities are licensed by WVDA and inspected at least quarterly. They charge animal owners a fee to provide processing services. Unlike commercial meat processing facilities that can sell retail inspected products to the public, meat processed at custom plants can only be consumed by the person who raised the animal, employees, family and nonpaying guests.

The man who brought the hogs into the state, Tim Reedy of Red House, is cooperating fully with the WVDA and Thursday began collecting live animals he had sold to individuals in this state.

Suspect live animals were quarantined while arrangements for collection, euthanization and disposal were made under the supervision of West Virginia State Veterinarian Joe Starcher.

WVDA recommends that anyone who bought hogs from Reedy within the past week – or from someone who may have bought and resold hogs from Reedy – should not eat the meat and should contact WVDA’s Animal Health Division at 304-558-2214.

ODA officials are investigating whether the swine quarantined in West Virginia were misrepresented under Ohio’s livestock dealer law when sold.

Dailey said there are three layers of food safety protection for Ohio consumers:

First, Ohio’s Livestock Dealer Law requires livestock dealers to accurately represent sales of livestock including disclosure of known health conditions.

Second, there are state and federal meat inspections. Avian tuberculosis is occasionally reported in swine, and indications of the bacteria are evident during post-mortem meat inspections, which are confirmed by veterinarians. Swine containing avian tuberculosis may be taken out of the food chain upon the veterinarian’s recommendation.

Third, consumers should follow proper cooking and handling methods.

The chance of infected pork entering the food chain would be extremely low. Nevertheless, the USDA recommends the proper handling and cooking of meat to provide protection against many viruses and bacteria.

Consumers should utilize the following safe food handling and preparation practices every day:

•Wash hands before and after handling food.

•Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, fish, poultry, fish and their juices away from other foods.

•Wash hands, cutting board, knife and countertops with hot, soapy water after cutting raw meats.

•Sanitize cutting boards using a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.

•Use a food thermometer to ensure food has reached proper temperatures. For more details on the proper temperatures of specific foods, visit www.fsis.usda.gov

This farm news was published in the April 19, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/19/2006