Defra is stepping up its efforts to keep African swine fever (ASF) out of the UK, with new warnings to be introduced at ports and airports.
A spokesperson told Pig World the Department was working with Border Force on improving its work in targeting and seizing illegally imported meat products from high risk areas.
There will also be a poster campaign as part of wider efforts to raise awareness of the risks that importing meat and meat products from ASF-affected regions, including China, Russia, Romania and Poland, could have in introducing the virus to the UK.
“We are working to design a set of communications which will be placed in ports and airports, informing people of the disease risk and asking that they do not bring personal pork imports into the UK,” the spokesperson said.
In its latest ASF assessment, the Animal and Plant Health Agency highlighted ‘ongoing concerns’ around pork products from China and eastern Asia entering the EU in passenger luggage and being discarded in areas where wild boar or domestic pigs are present.
Defra has been under pressure for some time from the NPA and the veterinary sector to step up its ASF measures and the message appears to have got through.
The UK has been compared unfavourably to other countries in terms of the lengths the authorities go to raise awareness about ASF and seek out infected product.
This was highlighted recently by NPA chairman Richard Lister, who was struck by the prominence of the ASF messaging at airports during recent visits to Canada (main picture). There have also been seizures of illegal meat imports in the US and checks in Australia, Japan and elsewhere revealing the presence of the ASF virus in imported meat.
Challenged in the House of Commons on what steps he was taking to improve biosecurity and ensure trucks transporting pigs are not at risk of transmitting diseases like ASF, Farming Minster Robert Goodwill insisted the UK has robust measures in place.
These include import bans on livestock and products of animal origin from high risk areas, a movement standstill regime and the swill feeding ban, while a Government-led campaign is currently running to raise awareness of the increased risk of ASF, he said. “The UK Chief Veterinary Officer has also endorsed the National Pig Association’s #MuckFreeTruck campaign,” he added.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed the planned measures, which she said were long overdue: “We want to see a robust poster campaign making the risks and penalties from bringing meat into the country clear to everyone, as well as more proactive surveillance and seizure of illegal meat imports.”