A scandal has erupted in Russia over the revelation that prisoners were fed pork contaminated with African swine fever.
Russian veterinary authorities identified the African swine fever virus in batches of meat products supplied to prisons in 14 different regions of the country. Around 20 tonnes (t) of contaminated meat have been found and destroyed in the Republic of Tatarstan, and 10t of meat were destroyed in Republic of Udmurtia.
It looks likely that the contaminated meat was supplied to dozens of prisons across the country, meaning that several thousands of prisoners in Russian jails would have eaten it over the last month.
“It appeared that these meat products were produced from the meat of pigs that were sick with African swine fever or had died due to the disease. The meat was produced at the Federal State Unitary Enterprise, Kuban, which last month supplied meat in Rostov, Vladimir, Kostroma, Vologda, Volgograd, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Astrakhan, Penza, Belgorod and Bryansk regions, Stavropol Territory and Republics of Udmurtia and Tatarstan,” said a spokesperson from the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor).
This is not the first time that consumers in Russia have consumed pork infected with African swine fever. In September, a few dozen people ate contaminated pork purchased at an agricultural fair in the Leningrad region.
Veterinary experts have said there is no doubt that contaminated pork is circulating in the Russian meat market. Strict controls are not carried out on the virus, because veterinary authorities do not believe it is dangerous to humans. However, Russian scientists have begun to express doubts about this opinion.
Alexander Borisov professor of immunology and virology of the Voronezh University School of Medicine, told GlobalMeatNews.com: “According to the traditional medical evaluation African swine fever is absolutely not dangerous to humans. However, veterinary experts are confiscating contaminated pig stock and burning it, to avoid contact with the market. Why?
“The point is that the disease’ potential harm to human health is poorly understood. Yes, people won’t get sick and die when the virus gets into their body through food, but it is a dangerous virus and it can have an impact on certain biological processes, causing some changes. None of this has been studied for ethical reasons, so it is obvious that such cases [when African swine fever contaminated pork hits the market] must be stopped.”