IN a sharp wake-up call for all livestock industries, African Swine Fever has been detected in samples of pig meat being smuggled into Australia through the post or by incoming travellers in their luggage, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.
The samples detected at international airports and mail processing centres were destroyed, and did not escape into the domestic Australian pig population, the department has confirmed.
In response to the recent spread of ASF around the world, the Department of Agriculture recently increased its border activities, sampling pork products seized at airports and mail receival centres over a two-week period. Testing was conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.
Test results showed six pork products from 152 tested were contaminated with African Swine Fever virus. The alarming finding has serious implications for all production livestock industries working to preserve Australia’s critically imported disease-free status.
The Department of Agriculture’s head of biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, said the department had increased controls and remained committed to keeping Australia’s $60 billion agricultural industries free from the disease.
“Bringing banned products to Australia puts our environment, industries and animal health at risk,” Ms O’Connell said.
The detection of the virus in seized products at the border did not change Australia’s African Swine Fever free status, she stressed.
“The test results do however reinforce the importance of continued compliance with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements,” Ms O’Connell said.
“African Swine Fever is not present in Australia. If introduced it would have a significant impact on pig health and production, and contribute to wider economic impacts caused by a loss of access to overseas markets for Australia’s pork products,” she said.
“Humans are not susceptible to ASF but we all have a role in preventing it, and other exotic animal diseases from arriving in Australia—even if we don’t own or work around farm animals.”
Ms O’Connell said it was crucial that all participants in Australia’s biosecurity system play their part in managing this disease threat.
“People visiting or returning to Australia from countries where this disease is present need to pay particular attention to biosecurity requirements, and not bring banned product with them. If travellers are carrying foods, plant material or animal products in their luggage, they must declare them on their incoming passenger card.”
“Before making online purchases, check what can and cannot be mailed to Australia. Products such as pork jerky cannot be brought into Australia, except under specific import conditions.
“If you are unsure of an item, declare it, or don’t bring it at all.”
The Department of Agriculture hosts information about African Swine Fever, Australia’s biosecurity requirements for incoming passengers and for people who are purchasing goods from overseas at this website page.
African Swine Fever, a highly contagious disease that can dramatically impact pig populations, is present in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, and has more recently been detected in other parts of the world including Eastern Europe, including Russia and the Ukraine, Belgium, China and Mongolia.
The Chinese outbreak has seen almost 800,000 pigs destroyed, and outbreaks occurring in 23 provinces across the country. Beef Central has reported widely on the impacts of China’s ASF outbreak, likely to affect global meat trade not only in pork, but other proteins as well. Click here to view earlier report.