Feeding prohibited pig feed (swill feeding)
In many countries, food waste is used as a cheap source of food for pigs. However, its use is a very dangerous practice.
Feeding of prohibited pig feed is the act of feeding food scraps or food waste that contains meat or which has been in contact with meat to pigs.
The feeding of prohibited pig feed to pigs is banned in Australia, as it has been shown to cause outbreaks of serious animal diseases overseas.
The risks posed by feeding of prohibited pig feed
The risk is from infectious disease, particularly exotic viral diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Classical Swine Fever, which are very effectively spread through feeding to pigs infected or contaminated meat or meat products which may be imported from a country where the diseases is present.
It is not acceptable to assume that meat or meat products in the food waste that you have is safe in this respect.
Feeding prohibited pig feed initiated the devastating outbreaks of FMD in the UK in 1967 and 2001, and in South Africa in 2000. It continues to be a common factor for the introduction of African Swine Fever and Classical Swine Fever intro previously free countries.
Consequently many countries globally regulate or ban feeding prohibited pig feed.
The maps below show the recent global distribution of outbreaks of these three important exotic diseases.
Australia is presently free from FMD. It is estimated that an outbreak of FMD in Australia would impact the national economy by up to $50 billion over a ten year period.
During the 2001 UK outbreak, millions of animals were destroyed to control and eradicate the disease.
Given the risks posed, Agriculture Victoria has developed a suite of information to help educate the public and producers about the dangers of feeding food waste to pigs. Most of this information is aimed at people with small-scale pig farms or those who keep pigs as pets.
What foods are banned?
Meat, meat products and any food that is served on the same plate or that has come into contact with meat is prohibited feed, and must not be fed or supplied for feeding to pigs.
Dairy products from overseas are also banned.
Food that cannot be fed to pigs include:
- salad and vegetables that has been served with meat.
- butcher's shop waste.
- pies, pasties, deli foods – including bacon, cheese (from overseas) and salads that contain meat.
Why is feeding prohibited pig feed dangerous?
Food waste can contain viruses that cause diseases in animals and these viruses are often not destroyed by chilling, freezing, cooking or curing.
Diseases that can be spread by feeding food waste containing mammalian meat and dairy products to pigs include Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, Classical Swine Fever, Aujeszky's Disease, Swine Vesicular Disease and Transmissible Gastroenteritis.
Australia is very fortunate to be free of these and other exotic diseases that could seriously affect our livestock industries and trade. Australia has strict quarantine laws that prevent the importation of animal products from countries where these diseases are known to be present.
Every year, large quantities of illegally imported animal products are seized by quarantine authorities. Some illegally imported animal products may pass undetected through this line of defence.
The banning of feeding prohibited pig feed to pigs provides a vital second line of defence because it prevents potentially infected foodstuffs coming into contact with susceptible animals.
When infected with the foot and mouth disease virus, pigs produce huge quantities of virus that very easily spread to other livestock species. The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the UK in 2001 is believed to have started from feeding prohibited pig feed (swill) to pigs.
Feeding prohibited pig feed to pigs is the most likely way that Australian livestock may be exposed to an exotic disease agent. An exotic disease outbreak would severely affect the livestock industries and the Australian economy due to a loss of valuable domestic and export markets and the cost of eradication.
Responsibility of food businesses, transporters and disposers of food wastes
Businesses that prepare and sell food (for example, restaurants, hotels, fast food outlets, hospitals, schools and other institutions) must not dispose of food waste in any way that would make it available for feeding to pigs.
Likewise, those involved in handling, transporting and disposal of food waste must not dispose of food waste in any way that would make it available for feeding to pigs. If left-over fruit, vegetables or breads have been on the same plate as animal products or by-products, they cannot be fed to pigs.
Responsibility of livestock owners
Owners must not feed prohibited pig feed to pigs. This includes food scraps from the household and from food businesses. Although some people may think that food waste is a cheap source of food, this is a dangerous practice that can put the livestock industries and the whole economy at risk.
Pig producers also have a legal obligation to obtain a Property Identification Code (PIC), regardless of how many pigs they own, to ensure the full traceability of all livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.
Producers can obtain a PIC free of charge by phoning us 1800 678 779 during office hours or online at agriculture.vic.gov.au.
Responsibility of the general public
Entry of exotic diseases into Australia could occur through the illegal import of prohibited animal products.
Travelers should not bring animal products into the country. If in doubt, declare items to quarantine officers at the point of entry.
Penalty for feeding prohibited pig feed
There are strict laws concerning the collection, storage, treatment and disposal of food waste in Australia.
Those convicted of feeding prohibited pig feed to pigs in Victoria can be fined up to $19,028 under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.
Similar penalties apply to a person who supplies prohibited pig feed to another person and is aware that it is being fed to pigs.
What can pigs be fed?
Pigs can be fed commercially prepared pig rations, grain, fruit and vegetable waste from markets, bread that does not contain any meat material (for example: bacon or ham), milk, milk product or by-products (if the latter two originate from a factory or milk processing premises licensed under the Dairy Act 2000).
It is not acceptable to feed vegetables, fruit or bread scraps that have been in contact with meat or material originating from mammalian origin.
If in doubt, do not feed leftover food to your pigs.
To ensure the health of your pigs it is best for them to have a balanced diet and there are specific commercial feeds available that are designed to meet their nutritional needs.
Read more about pig health and welfare.
Information for small scale pig farmers, hobby farmers and those that have pigs as pets
Do not feed meat, meat products, some dairy products or anything that has been in contact with meat to your pigs.
Information for food outlets
Agriculture Victoria has prepared information for food outlets to help ensure they are aware of the restrictions around the disposal of food waste:
Responsible disposal of food waste
Businesses that prepare and sell food (e.g. restaurants, bakeries, hotels, fast food outlets, hospitals), have a legal responsibility to dispose of food waste appropriately.
It is illegal to provide a person with prohibited food waste that is to be fed to pigs. Substantial penalties apply.
If you become aware of likely feeding prohibited pig feed you must cease supplying (if that is the case) and report the following activities to the Department immediately on 136 186 or by email to FoodOutletRep@ecodev.vic.gov.au.
Environmental Health Officers
Agriculture Victoria has been working collaboratively with Department of Health and Human Services (through Environmental Health Officers) and local councils on an ongoing basis to raise awareness of feeding of prohibited pig feed, particularly targeting licenced food premises that have the potential to provide prohibited pig feed to pig producers.
Environmental Health Officers check food outlets to ensure that they are not supplying prohibited pig feed when routinely auditing food outlets and educate food operators about the risks and legislation relating to such practices.
For more information please read Managing the Swill Feeding Risks through Environmental Health Officers.
For further information on feeding of prohibited pig feed and exotic diseases, contact your local Animal Health Officer, District Veterinary Officer within the department or contact Agriculture Victoria at 136 186.