The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting tests to determine whether contaminated feed may be playing a role in the outbreak of a deadly pig virus.
The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus was first detected in Canada at an Ontario pig farm less than one month ago. To date, the virus has been reported at 16 farms in Ontario and at one each in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.
On Tuesday, the agency announced that it is testing feed pellets produced by Grand Valley Fortifiers to determine whether they are "capable of causing disease in piglets." The results are expected "within days," the agency said.
According to the CFIA, Grand Valley Fortifiers issued a voluntary recall on Feb. 9 for some of its pelleted feed products that contain porcine plasma.
Samples of the plasma obtained from the manufacturer that supplies Grand Valley Fortifiers found evidence of the PED virus, the agency says. The plasma had been used as an ingredient in Grand Valley's feed pellets.
Further testing confirmed that the contaminated plasma can cause pigs to fall ill. The testing announced Tuesday will determine if the pellets themselves can cause piglets to fall ill.
"The CFIA is working closely with the company to confirm the effectiveness of the recall, and is closely examining company records to see where potentially affected product was distributed," the agency said in a statement.
"The CFIA is also reviewing records of other imports of swine plasma and will work with the Council of Chief Veterinary Officers and the pork industry in Canada to proactively manage the possible risk of transmission through feed."
The agency also warned that further recalls or other actions may be necessary to "minimize the potential that feed could contribute to the transmission of this disease in Canada."
The virus not pose a risk to human health or food safety, the CFIA says.
The highly contagious virus has killed millions of piglets in the United States since last May. On Saturday, the head of the Canadian Swine Health Board said the disease has been contained in Canada because of tighter controls that were put in place in the wake of the outbreak south of the border, as well as "more vigilant" farming practices in Canada.
"If we didn't have the detailed focus on biosecurity in Canada, within the Canadian industry, I think it's pretty evident that this disease would already have spread right across the country," Robert Harding said.