10 March 2014

The below is attributable to Professor Alan Rix, Acting Vice-Chancellor

The University of Queensland has suspended from 21 February the supply of pigs to market from its Gatton piggery while it investigates concerns about possible contamination.

The University submitted samples from the livers of five pigs to QML laboratories in December 2013. QML referred the testing to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The pigs died during School of Veterinary Science teaching and research activities over a seven month period in 2013.

Testing on the liver samples found trace elements of coumatetralyl, the active ingredient of an anticoagulant rat poison.

The levels detected were just above the limits of detection for the best equipment currently available.

Rat poison was used by UQ to control the rat population at the Gatton piggery until early September 2013.

On receipt of test results, UQ immediately suspended the sale of pigs from the Gatton piggery and consultations began with DAFF.

The University is working with DAFF and Safe Food Queensland on further testing and analysis.

From mid-September, pest control at the piggery has been managed by a licensed pest control management company which is developing a long-term pest-control plan. 

It is common for piggeries to have to control for vermin.

All rat poison has been removed from the Gatton Piggery, and the site has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Non-chemical pest control (meshing and blocking of entrance points) is being used.

There are about 2500 pigs at the Gatton campus. As well as production purposes, the animals are used to support the University’s teaching and learning activities

Further investigation is required before a connection can be drawn between the trace elements of coumatetralyl and the deaths of the five pigs. 

Pig deaths are not uncommon in a piggery of this size, and it  cannot be concluded that vermin control contributed to the deaths of the five pigs in a population of 2500.

There have been no further unexplained pig deaths or illness since November 2013. 

Media: Michael Duthie, (07) 33467691, michael.duthie@uq.edu.au or 0458 801 328 or Carolyn Varley, (07) 3365 1120, 0413 601 248 or c.varley@uq.edu.au