Australia deports travellers over ASF risk as tests show half of seized products are infected

Australia has been deporting tourists found to have brought pork products into the country as the authorities step up their African swine fever (ASF) controls.

According to a report in Pork Business, a 60-year-old Vietnamese tourist carrying 4kg of pork-filled mooncakes was deported after failing to declare he was carrying food into Sydney International Airport. He will not be eligible to travel to Australia for three years.

And last month, 45-year-old woman from Vietnam had her tourist visa cancelled after she arrived at the same airport with undeclared food in her luggage, including 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of pork. She was sent home to Vietnam and banned from returning to Australia for three years.

Australia is on even higher alert after the disease was detected recently in nearby East Timor, where Australian veterinarians are working with local authorities on an eradication plan. Sniffer dogs now examine luggage on direct flights from the East Timorese capital Dili to the northern Australian city of Darwin to prevent contamination.

In April, Australian migration laws were amended to shorten or cancel a visitor visa for biosecurity reasons and the importation of objectionable goods. Australia has also banned the import of pig products from countries infected with ASF.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie (pictured) said the Government was adopting ‘zero tolerance’ for travellers who intentionally do the wrong thing and lie about what they are carrying.

“If pork products carrying the virus get past our border, are eaten by family and friends and the leftovers fed to pigs then we’ll be in a world of pain,” she said.

The Australian agriculture industry fears the disease could be transmitted via air passengers traveling through Melbourne and Sydney’s airports, or spread through the feral pig population which is 10 times the size of its domestic pig herd, ABC News reported.

Highlighting the scale of the risk, she revealed that a recent round of testing found nearly 50% of pork products seized from air travellers tested positive for ASF.

In the first eight months of the year, Australian border officials have confiscated 27 metric tons of pork products at Australian airports.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.