Hold your horses, as we might see a hike in yet another one of our meat products soon. You may remember that last year, chicken prices increased due to a chicken export ban by Malaysia, as we had to pay fifty cents more for our favourite chicken rice. If you’ve been craving your favourite pork dishes, you might want to keep your cravings at bay as imports of live pigs from an Indonesian island have halted. This is because the deadly African swine fever (ASF) has been detected in these pigs. Image: Mai.Chayakorn / Shutterstock.com How Was It Detected? The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) announced on Thursday (20 April) that the disease was detected in the carcasses of slaughtered pigs that were shipped from the Indonesian island of Pulau Bulan. Found in an abattoir in Jurong on Wednesday (19 April), the SFA mentioned that before this, it had not detected any pigs imported to Singapore to be carriers of ASF. The imports from Pulau Bulan comprise a sizable proportion of Singapore’s total pig supply—15 per cent. These imports make up two-thirds of Singapore’s freshly slaughtered pork, although Singapore imports live pigs from other places like Malaysia. Now that the supply of live pigs is down, the SFA is working towards supplying more chilled and frozen pork commonly imported from countries like Australia. SFA prohibits virus-infected pork from being imported into Singapore. However, processed pork from regions affected by the disease can be imported as long as it has been treated to kill the virus. The farm on Pulau Bulan rearing these live pigs and the Jurong abattoir is under investigation, and the latter will undergo several measures to maintain its hygiene. ASF is a disease spread between pigs and boars and does not affect humans. Hence, pork sold is still safe for consumption. From Sunday, the supply of freshly slaughtered pork will be temporarily halted. What Is African Swine Fever? Of all diseases, flu viruses transmitted from birds to humans are something we know all too well. H1N1, H7N9, and the list goes on. Lots of illnesses are transmitted from animals to humans. The SARS virus, which rocked our country 20 years ago, first developed in bats. It was also widely thought that one of our biggest enemies in recent years, COVID-19, came from bats, but its disputed origin is still unknown today. As such, we don’t hear much about diseases transmitted from animal to animal. African swine fever is a disease spread among both domestic and wild pigs such as boars. It affects pigs of all ages, and its mortality rate can reach 100 per cent. It is not a food safety concern as it doesn’t affect humans, but it does put a considerable strain on livestock. Though humans cannot be infected with it, ASF survives on various surfaces, from clothes to pork products. Thus, our behaviour could facilitate its spread. First discovered in Kenya in 1921, the virus remained in Africa until 1957, when it reached Europe. In 1978, ASF arrived on the shores of the Dominican Republic, wiping out half of its pig population and spreading to its neighbouring country Haiti in what seemed like a swine fever pandemic. It wasn’t until 2018 that ASF was detected in Asia, with the first case in China. Did you know Singapore’s wild boar population is in danger due to this disease? Image: galitsin / Shutterstock.com The first case of ASF in Singapore was detected on 7 February this year in a wild boar carcass. Since then, 17 more wild boars have been infected with the disease. They were found in nature reserves, including Pulau Ubin, and most were dead. The wild boar population could be wiped out if the disease continues to spread, given its high mortality rate. Ban on Pig Products from Singapore Upon the detection of ASF in Singapore, several countries banned visitors from Singapore from bringing in pig products. In March, the Philippines banned travellers from Singapore from bringing products derived from pigs, including pork and pig skin. Those found to possess these items will have them confiscated. Singapore does not have pig farms and does not import pork to the Philippines. The pork sold in Singapore supermarkets is imported. Taiwan also imposed similar regulations in February, fining anyone importing pork from Singapore NT$200,000 (~S$8,800), with repeat offenders fined NT$1,000,000 (~S$43,565.80). Those who don’t pay the fine will be denied entry to Taiwan and returned to their home countries. Since 2019, Taiwan has identified Singapore as one of the countries at risk of ASF, located in Southeast Asia, where the disease is endemic. As such, those bringing pork products, including bak kwa and sausages from Singapore, will be fined NT$10,000 (~S$436).