AFRICAN swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus fragments have again been detected in pork products seized at Australia’s international mail centres, highlighting the significant risk these products pose for the nation. These findings do not change Australia’s FMD or ASF-free status.
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said FMD was considered the biggest animal disease threat to Australia’s agriculture.
“An outbreak of FMD in Australia would lead to the closure of major livestock, beef, lamb, dairy and pork export markets with serious economic and social effects in other sectors, including tourism,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Studies have estimated a large multi-state outbreak of FMD in Australia could result in economic losses of $ 50 billion dollars over 10 years and an outbreak of ASF could cost Australia $ 1.5 to 2.03 billion dollars over 5 years.
“Pork products were seized at international mail centres in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne over 2 two-week periods over recent holidays.
‘Overall, 24 per cent of samples tested positive for ASF virus fragments and 1 per cent tested positive for FMD virus fragments.
“In the first period (December 2020), 19 of 94 pork samples (20 per cent) tested positive for ASF virus fragments and none tested positive for FMD virus fragments.
“In the second period (January-February 2020) 29 of 104 pork samples (28 per cent) tested positive for ASF virus fragments and 2 of 104 pork samples (2 per cent) tested positive for FMD virus fragments.
“We are ready to respond should ASF or FMD ever be detected here, including recently running simulation exercises for the Australian pork industry.
“The Australian Government has stepped up its biosecurity efforts through our $66.6 million ASF package, which has ramped up interventions at the border, targeted operations to detect fraudulently labelled imported product and testing more products.
“We have also increased penalties for travellers who do not declare high risk goods at the border and Australian Border Force officials can cancel visas and refuse entry to Australia for serious biosecurity breaches.
“While these results do not confirm live infectious virus is present, it is a reminder that we need everyone to be more vigilant. It is more important than ever that people do the right thing and don’t bring, mail or import illegal pork or animal products into Australia.
“These findings highlight the need for Australia’s livestock industries to maintain high biosecurity standards. Practices such as illegal swill feeding (feeding food scraps to pigs) have the potential to bring these diseases into their farms.”
People visiting or returning to Australia need to pay attention to biosecurity requirements. Before you travel, check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.
If you are unsure about the biosecurity status of goods that you have brought into Australia or received in the mail, please report a biosecurity concern by calling our See. Secure. Report. hotline on 1800 798 636 or completing our online reporting form.
- Between 5 November 2018 and 31 December 2020, 42.8 tonnes of pork products were intercepted on air travellers and 9.4 tonnes was intercepted in mail items at the Australian border.
- In the previous testing (September 2019) of seized pork samples, 48 per cent tested positive for ASF virus fragments, however, samples were from both the international traveller and mail pathways.
- ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that affects pigs, resulting in a very high mortality rate.
- Since ASF emergence in Asia in 2018, there have been a total of:
– 11,623 ASF outbreaks in the region reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
– 3,288 ASF outbreak are considered ongoing as of 8 February 2021
- FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals including buffalo, pigs, cattle, sheep, deer, camelids and goats. It is capable of extremely rapid spread. Cattle are most susceptible, though pigs spread the disease fastest.
- Animal products, including meat and dairy products, bones, untreated hides, and contaminated items such as equipment pose a significant risk for introduction of biosecurity threats to Australia if import requirements are not met.
Source: Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment