Pork producers in Cape Town have said they are committed to delivering products that are “safe, welfare-friendly and affordable”, reports Times Live.

A research article published in the SA Medical Journal on July 26 found that samples taken in 2014 from different pork products from various outlets in Cape Town tested positive for the hepatitis E virus (HEV). While the sample came from 2014, the report is still relevant today, as these products could still be a potential source for HEV transmission in the Cape.

Speaking to Times Live, Peter Evans, the head of consumer assurance at the SA Pork Producers’ Association, said that the Association had supported the 2014 research that was reported this week in the journal.

“Any potential food safety issues will always be investigated. It was thus not a surprise that there was a high level of seroprevalence in pigs in the study done.

“Many factors contribute to infection developing in pigs and the prevalence found between different populations of pigs.”

Evans also said that hepatitis E was found in pigs all over the world.

However, as pigs occasionally developed mild symptoms of disease, “it would be difficult for farmers to know, without doing serological tests, that pigs had contracted [hepatitis E]. The disease in pigs is self-limiting”.

Evans has given some insight into how pig farms are maintained to ensure the safety of the products. He says that modern farms using proper drained housing with floors that are easy to thoroughly clean reduces the risk of pigs becoming or remaining infected by the virus.

“Encouraging farmers to adopt modern farming practices is thus a means of ensuring food safety (as compared to outdoor systems),” he said.

Assurance programmes include biosecurity, hygiene, pest control, water quality, manure/wastewater management, and employee health.

Evans says these measures all ensure the risk of HEV infection in pigs is reduced.

He added that “vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods can be potentially contaminated through contaminated irrigation water. There is also a possibility that shellfish harvested off our coasts that are in sewage discharge areas may also become infected [with HEV].”

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