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Pigs at a farm in Vietnam (Porphyre; CIRAD)

Pigs and Human Health

Because pig production and pork consumption have a direct impact on human health, it is clear that a holistic approach under what is known as the “One Health” approach is needed to maximize the benefits of the sector and minimize potential threats to human wellbeing.

The ability of Sus scrofa to convert by-products and waste from households or food processing into protein has been exploited since the animal was first domesticated. This form of nutrient “recycling” is a significant source of high quality protein that has an important role in achieving household food security. Protein and micronutrients with high bioavailability in pork enhance the nutritional adequacy of plant-based diets if added in reasonable amounts.

Human health risks can be related to production processes or to the consumption of pork and pork products. A major concern is the interface between pigs and humans and the range of pathogens that cause diseases in one or the other or both: transmission can occur through direct contact between animals and humans, and slaughter, processing and consumption also open possibilities of infection.

Human health risks also arise from accumulations in pig carcasses of toxic substances ingested in their feed. Dioxins are a classic example of potentially carcinogenic substances that must be prevented from entering the feed-production chain so that they do not reach serious levels in the consumed product.