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23 December 2019

Biosecurity, Traceability and Surveillance: 3 Pillars of Belgium’s Successful ASF Approach

In September 2018, African swine fever (ASF) was confirmed in two wild boards in Belgium. The country succeeded in keeping its domestic pigs—and its pork—virus-free and suitable for consumption and export, thus securing trade from the country. Belgium’s successful approach is based on their three pillars of food safety: biosecurity, traceability and surveillance.

Covered by Belgian law

Food safety is a concern of both the industry and the government. That is why all rules, controls and transparency measures are implemented in Belgian law, and covered by a single control organism: the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC)—a beacon of trust for the entire Belgian pig farming and producing industry.

Biosecurity: standard approach in Belgian pig farms

An extensive number of measures and requirements apply to the entire territory of pig farms. They keep the farms free of any form of contamination.

  • Infrastructural requirements
    • Cleanable and disinfectable loading/unloading bay
    • Permanent storage for carcasses (to be cleaned and disinfected after each collection)
    • For staff and visitors: hygiene barrier (away from stables and living quarters) with permanent stock of disinfectants and cleaning/disinfection equipment
  • Operational requirements
    • Closed establishment with register for all visitors
    • Bird-proof and vermin control
    • Suspended farming for cleaning and disinfection (min. 1x/year)
    • Access ban for people, vehicles and materials in contact with 3rd country pigs in the preceding 72 hours
    • 4-week prohibition of movement for pigs after their introduction on a farm
    • Feed: ban on kitchen waste
    • Mandatory cleaning and disinfection of transport vehicles
  • Biosecurity measures
    • Wild boars (alive or dead) are not allowed to be introduced on pig farms, nor are people that have been in contact with wild boar in the preceding 72 hours
    • Avoid all direct contact between farm pigs and wild boar: pigs are kept in closed stables or, when pigs can freely roam outdoors (only in small farms), double fences are installed
    • Secured storage of materials and feed materials used in pig farm


Biosecurity: extra measures since ASF outbreak in wild boar

Since the outbreak of ASF in wild boar, the following extra measures are taken:

  • Prohibition of pig assembly (except for slaughter)
  • In case of sickness of pigs: enhanced passive surveillance, i.e. 3 pigs samples for ASF tests
  • Enhanced controls
  • Sensitization

These extra measures are all monitored by the Biocheck score system, developed by the Ghent University.


Traceability: from feed to fork

Identification and registration offer complete traceability throughout the entire production chain, enabling Belgium to fully guarantee the origin of the products. The following measures are taken:

  • At the holding: mandatory animal identification (individual ear tag) of piglets, pigs and imported pigs
  • Before slaughter: mandatory identification:
    • When leaving farm to slaughterhouse
    • Within 5 days before slaughter
    • Slaughter tags/clips
  • From the farm to the slaughterhouse:
    • food chain inspection
  • Within the slaughterhouse:
    • Register in (link to supplier)
    • Internal traceability (HACCP, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point)
    • Register out (link to client)


Surveillance and Notification: mandatory steps

When notifiable diseases occur in a pig farms, holders have to follow a mandatory notification procedure:

  • Holder -> private veterinarian: first line labs (surveillance and sensitization)
  • Private veterinarian -> official veterinarian: governmental controls
  • Official veterinarian -> OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and ANDS (Animal Disease Identification System)
  • Treatment of sick pigs is prohibited as long as samples have not been taken for the detection of the ASF-virus whatever the symptoms are. Any pig holder is obliged to contact his veterianarian who will take the samples and send them to the laboratory for analysis
  • Testing for the ASF-virus of dead wild boar and wild boar shot in the zones at risk.



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