(This version of the January 2nd story corrects 10th paragraph to show more than 200,000 pigs culled on infected farms, not in total)
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s agriculture ministry said on Wednesday that slaughterhouses will need to run African swine fever virus tests for pig products before selling them to the market, in a move to control spread of the highly contagious disease.
Slaughterhouses must slaughter the pigs from different origins separately, and can only sell the products if blood from the same batch of pigs is tested negative for African swine fever virus, according to a new regulation published on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
If an African swine fever outbreak is found, slaughterhouses must cull all pigs to be slaughtered and suspend operations for at least 48 hours, according to the regulation, which will go into effect from Feb. 1.
The new government move came as China reported on Wednesday a new outbreak of African swine fever on a farm with 73,000 pigs in Heilongjiang province, the largest farm yet to report a case of the deadly disease, further highlighting the increasing severity of the outbreak.
The case in Suihua city in the northeastern province infected 4,686 pigs and killed 3,766 animals, the agriculture ministry said in a separate statement on its website.
“The African swine fever situation is only getting worse. Small farms, big farms, slaughterhouses, feed – the whole production chain basically all got hit,” said Yao Guiling, an analyst with consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.
“The policies are good, but the increasing outbreaks show that there might be some problem with execution at the local government level,” said Yao.
Beijing has banned feeding kitchen waste to pigs, and restricted transport of live pigs and products from infected areas, among other measures, to control spread of the disease.
But the deadly virus has raged on, and hit 23 provinces and municipalities across China, since the first outbreak was reported in early August last year.
China has reported more than 90 cases of the incurable disease so far, leading to the culling of more than 200,000 pigs on infected farms, and hundreds of thousands more in neighboring areas.
The disease is deadly for pigs but does not harm humans.
Reporting by Hallie Gu and Ryan Woo; editing by Richard Pullin and David Evans