Thursday, August 18, 2022

Call to be vigilant after FMD fragments detected in Aus

Neal Wallace
Farmers urged to step up biosecurity and record keeping as disease breaks out in Indonesia, and signs detected in Australia.
Speaking at the recent Primary Industries of NZ Summit in Auckland, Kotahi chief executive David Ross said global disruption will continue to affect NZ trade.

The risk of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia reaching New Zealand is considered low, but farmers are still being urged to tighten biosecurity and accurately record livestock movements.

The economically crippling disease is rampant in Indonesia – and last week routine testing of Chinese imported pork products in Melbourne supermarkets detected viral fragments of both foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and African swine fever (ASF).

Undeclared beef smuggled into Australia by an airline passenger from Indonesia was also found to have FMD fragments.

Seven times between 2019 and 2021 FMD viral fragments, in which the virus is dead but shows the animal was exposed to the disease, have been detected in food sampled at Australia’s borders.

The Australian Government said the Indonesian outbreak is the closest the disease has come to its shores in more than 100 years, but because no live virus has been detected, the country retains its FMD-free status.

Beef+Lamb NZ’s senior technical policy manager Chris Houston said Indonesia has a large livestock population and the FMD outbreak is extensive, but he has faith in NZ biosecurity.

“It’s certainly not welcomed but I would term it as cause for measured concern,” said Houston.

He urged farmers to be vigilant, tighten their own biosecurity and to consider moving to OSPRI’s electronic animal status declaration system for livestock movements, which would be easier to use should there be an exotic disease outbreak.

NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss said his industry is very concerned at the spread of ASF and FMD.

The fact that viral FMD fragments were found in a Melbourne supermarket shows biosecurity can be breached, he said.

The primary concern for NZ farmers is ASF, and Kleiss said they are justifiably proud of the high health status of their industry, which is due to the priority they place on biosecurity.

But there are fears that status could be threatened as NZ is expected to import greater volumes of pork due to new animal welfare measures increasing costs for domestic producers.

While accepting that biosecurity cannot stop everything, Kleiss called on all pig owners to ensure they feed only meat that has been cooked at 100degC for one hour.

Feeding uncooked meat to pigs is one of the quickest ways to spread exotic diseases.

There are no direct flights between NZ and Indonesia but the Government is heightening biosecurity measures and offering assistance to Indonesia.

The Australian website Beef Central is reporting farmer anger at what they call the lax biosecurity of passengers returning from Bali.

It reports there are no additional checks or sniffer dogs and passengers have not been required to clean shoes or clothes, even if they declare that they had been on a farm.

It also reports that store and prime cattle prices are falling as farmers offload stock, fearing they will be left with unsellable animals should there be an FMD outbreak.

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reports the viral fragments were detected in pork floss, dried meat that can be imported if it meets strict import conditions.

The product is processed, but investigations have not found evidence that the treatment is up to Australia’s requirements.

The Australian Government said it is working with Indonesia to control FMD and is tightening biosecurity, including reviewing import permits, heightened awareness at borders and increased vigilance with travellers.

It is advising farmers to tighten on-farm biosecurity practices, including records of visitors and livestock movements, and to not allow people who have visited FMD-infected areas within the past seven days to visit farms, or handle or feed livestock.

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