WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily closed the Olymel hog plant in Red Deer, Alberta, after it received a suspicious load of hogs, but initial tests have ruled out foot-and-mouth disease, a government spokesman said Tuesday.
Final analysis of the initial negative results will be available late Tuesday or on Wednesday after further analysis at the federal laboratory in Winnipeg, said CFIA spokesman Guy Gravelle. The initial tests were negative for any reportable animal disease, including foot-and-mouth, he said.
“Preliminary results can often be turned around based on the final analysis but at this stage everything looks like it’s not FMD or anything of that sort,” Gravelle said.
The government continued to test the roughly 200 hogs in the original load, said Gravelle, adding that it’s likely not all have been tested yet.
He could not say what type of testing CFIA was conducting.
The hogs had lesions when they arrived at the plant that raised suspicion because Canadian veterinarians aren’t familiar with foot-and-mouth, said Jurgen Preugschas, president of the Canadian Pork Council.
“I feel fairly comfortable that it’s all going to be clear,” Preugschas said.
Japan and South Korea are already fighting outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease this spring, leading the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in April to urge heightened international surveillance.
FMD is a highly contagious disease hitting cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. It rarely affects humans.
“There’s no question that if it was a foreign animal disease, the borders would be locked (to Canadian hog and pork exports),” Preugschas said. “That’s our greatest fear.”
Canada is the world’s third-largest pork exporter and supplies 3 percent of the U.S. pork supply.
Up to 50 percent of Canada’s pork is exported, but that could initially drop to zero if foot-and-mouth is confirmed in Canada and markets impose bans, said Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri.
Privately held Olymel’s Red Deer plant is one of the largest pork plants in Canada and will remain closed until CFIA has final testing results, Gravelle said.
The Canadian farm that supplied the hogs was placed under quarantine on Monday and will remain under quarantine until final negative results, Preugschas said.
Additional reporting by Bob Burgdorfer; editing by John Picinich and Jim Marshall