Tote Bags Responsible for Pig Deaths
Last year, a virus killed 7 million pigs, and although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) knew the culprit—Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea—it didn't know why the pigs were getting it. After investigating possible ways the virus found its way onto farms—including faulty lab protocols, ingredients in pet treats and even birds bringing the virus—it found that the culprit was tote bags.
The USDA traced the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus to reusable tote bags on farms, which the USDA referred to as "Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers." The large, long-lasting tote bags can hold up to 3,000 lbs., according to Gizmodo.
In this sense, the bags are different than the usual consumer tote bags that someone might pick up at his or her local grocery store or at an event. The bags also are used for multiple purposes on farms, and also are used for transporting material between farms, manufacturing plants and shipping ports between different countries. Because of all of these different destinations and usages, the bags are seldom cleaned, and when they are, the cleanings aren't always thorough.
"The results of the APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services] investigation indicate that the use of Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (aka FIBC or "tote bags") best fit the criteria established for entry into the United States, rapid and widespread across the country, and introduction onto individual farms," the USDA said in the report. "FIBCs are commonly used to transport many types of material, including sand for flood control, soybeans, pet treats or almost any kind of bulk material, including pig feed."
The report also indicated that the FIBCs may be contaminated in the origin country in contaminated trucks used for transport, or by exposure to irrigation or flood waters containing pig manure as organic fertilizer.
The USDA further reported that there were no federal regulations prohibiting reuse of the bags for importing products in 2013, though the association doesn't know the exact number of recycled bags containing imported products.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of September 2015 now requires animal food facilities, which must register with the Food and Drug Administration as food facilities, to develop food safety plans and perform hazard analyses to identify any potential hazards associated with the animal food and the facility itself.