Belfast Telegraph

Praise for Northern Ireland officials over seizure of meat with swine fever DNA

Some 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products brought in by passengers were seized during June (stock photo)
Some 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products brought in by passengers were seized during June (stock photo)

By Chris McCullough

Port authorities in Northern Ireland have been praised for seizing illegal meat products that contained traces of African swine fever (ASF) DNA brought in by passengers in their luggage.

Authorities around the world are keeping a close eye for the deadly disease, which has the potential to wipe out entire national pig herds if it takes hold.

Some 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products brought in by passengers were seized during June.

Samples tested by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) confirmed traces of ASF DNA in sausages brought in from Asia.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) yesterday welcomed the quick response from Government vets and inspectors who discovered the meat and seized it.

ASF is already ravaging through south-east Asia and in parts of Europe including Belgium, causing hundreds of thousands of pigs to be slaughtered.

The biggest producer of pork meat in the world is China and it, too, is seeing herds wiped out in efforts to contain ASF.

Northern Ireland has imposed strict controls prohibiting personal imports of meat and dairy products from most countries outside of the EU.

BVA president Simon Doherty said: "It's very encouraging to see that Government vets and inspectors are united in their vigilance to prevent the incursion of this deadly disease.

"We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have a surveillance facility like AFBI that can carry out quick and effective testing and continuous monitoring for disease risks.

"African swine fever poses a significant and growing threat to animal welfare and agriculture throughout all regions of the UK, so we need to continue to make every effort to curb its spread and raise public awareness of the risks of bringing animal products that may be carrying the disease into the country."

Mr Doherty added: "The seizure of 300kg of illegally imported products in June alone really underlines the scale of this important task ahead."

While authorities say ASF poses no threat to human health, officials in Northern Ireland are concerned that if the disease entered the region it could have devastating effects, damaging the local economy and putting local jobs at risk.

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