CHICAGO (Reuters) - The largest U.S. grain industry group said on Monday it will fund studies examining whether animal feed may be spreading a virus that has killed millions of baby pigs.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) will donate $60,000 to the National Pork Board for research on how feed might be associated with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), according to a statement.
The board is aiming to assess the risks of PEDv contaminating animal feed "at all steps within the feed processing and delivery chain" and to study treatments that could deactivate the virus if it is present in feed. Industry officials also want to develop procedures to test whether animals become sick after consuming feed that contains genetic material for PEDv.
The highly contagious virus, which does not affect humans or food safety, is known to be transmitted among pigs through feces. Many hog producers suspect it is also spread through pig blood products used in feed.
More research is needed to confirm a link, said David Fairfield, vice president of feed services at NGFA, which represents feed manufacturers and others in the farm industry.
"There are a lot of rumors," he said. "A lot of people have different theories."
In the United States, the world's biggest pork exporter, losses from PEDv could cut pork production by as much as 7 percent in 2014, according to Rabobank, a much steeper decline than government estimates for a 2 percent fall. [ID:nL2N0NS2ER]
The National Pork Board said it has received more than $2.1 million in donations to study PEDv since the virus was first identified in the United States a year ago.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Peter Galloway)