African Swine Fever would devastate Australia’s multi-billion dollar pork industry

January 23, 2019

Six illegally imported pork products seized recently by Federal Government biosecurity officers have tested positive to the potentially devastating African Swine Fever (ASF).

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs associated with a high mortality rate, depending on the strain of the virus.

It does not affect humans but due to its high economic impact – and lack of a commercially available vaccine – ASF is considered one of the most important diseases of pigs worldwide.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources recently increased its border activities in response to recent outbreaks of ASF overseas.

ASF is present in sub-Saharan Africa but has now been detected in other parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, Belgium and Mongolia.

Pig farms in at least 25 regions or provinces in China have recently been hit hard, including herds of almost 70,000 animals.

As part of the crackdown at the Australian border, samples of pork products seized at international airports and mail processing centres over a two-week period were tested for ASF.

The testing was conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

Head of Biosecurity Lyn O’Connell said six pork products from 152 tested were contaminated with ASF.

“Bringing banned products to Australia puts our environment, industries and animal health at risk,” she said.

“The detection of the virus in seized products at the border does not change Australia’s African Swine Fever-free status.

“The test results do, however, reinforce the importance of continued compliance with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements.

“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 our pork products.

“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.

“It is crucial that all participants in Australia’s biosecurity system play their part in managing this 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.”

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