In case you are still digging out from this week’s Winter Storm Petra, here are some of the stories you may have missed. Vietnam confirmed African swine fever has entered the country and has been detected on three farms. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists intercepted over 10,000 kilograms of prohibited animal products from China, attempting to make entry into the United States via containerized sea cargo. And ASF has not been found in Canada.
I repeat, ASF has not been detected in Canada.
“This was a situation where there were good intentions that had a negative impact. We believe this was a case of misreading some public content and sharing it on social media,” says Gary Stordy, director of Government and Corporate Affairs for the Canadian Pork Council.
According to Stordy, the fake news seems to have stemmed from a mistaken post on social media over the President’s Day holiday. The third party had no direct connection to the hog industry and had misread information the CPC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had shared on social media. They then went on to share the post, stating “there is ASF in Canada and here is what you should do to keep it away from your herd.”
Stordy says the CPC team believes traders in Chicago were the one who started asking questions, even though the information wasn’t from a credible source and not directly from the CPC or the Canadian federal government
“They basically started saying, ‘What’s this? We heard there’s African swine fever in feed in Canada.’ That started a steam-roll effect where everyone started freaking out,” Stordy says. “We are making assumptions that this one post was the source, and there might have been other factors that came into play, but we are confident that social media fed into the beast.”
For the past several weeks both the CPC and the CFIA have been actively posting strong public messages on ASF, the dangers of it coming into Canada and the economic impact it would have on the industry. Since Canada’s commercial sector has a high level of biosecurity already in place, the messaging has really been targeted to address the country’s backyard producer sector.
“We’ve seen what’s been happening in Europe with backyard producers, specifically in Poland. That is one of the problems they are having. Small, independent producers that are not part of a traditional production system, spreading the virus,” Stordy says. “This third party saw the notice to keep animals safe from the disease and with good intentions shared information but added wrong information to their post.”
Moving forward Stordy says the CPC plans to continue collaborating with the federal government and ensuring an effective monitoring of social media.
“We cannot wait for traditional media to correct information shared on social media,” Stordy says. “Social media requires a speedy response.”
While Stordy says he believes this was an innocent mistake, the post provided some insight into what people are following and reading on social media.
“Because people are relying on Google or social media to get their information, we have to create an environment of trusted sources,” Stordy says. “The CPC and the federal government are trusted sources of information in this matter.”