Monday, April 22, 2024

NZ ‘monitoring global spread of African Swine Fever’

Neal Wallace
NZ Pork seeks ban of imports from affected countries as disease spreads in Europe.
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Biosecurity officials are monitoring the global spread of African Swine Fever, which has reached Sweden, and border security measures for the disease were recently heightened.

This is according to the Ministry for Primary Industries, following a request from NZ Pork on Monday for the MPI to ban pig meat imports from countries with the disease, which is fatal to pigs. 

African Swine Fever (ASF) is spreading through Europe, where most of New Zealand’s imported pig meat comes from. The Swedish Veterinary Institute has found ASF in wild boars, the first case in the Nordic country.

Sweden accounts for around 6% of NZ’s imported pork, with just under 3000t imported in 2022.

The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has advised ASF is rapidly spreading through the Balkan states with hundreds of cases reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Serbia.

NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss said the risk to the NZ pig industry has increased despite previous MPI assurances following a risk assessment on imported products and their origin as reasons for not reviewing biosecurity measures.

“The risk has clearly changed. The landscape is vastly different since this risk calculation was last done,” Kleiss said.

NZ Pork wants a ban until the MPI is assured that strong biosecurity protocols are in place in nations impacted by the disease.

Pork-producing countries, including Australia, have ceased pork imports from Sweden in the wake of ASF being found there.

“Armenia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as Australia, have all now banned pork imports from Sweden,” Kleiss said.

Mary van Andel, the MPI’s chief veterinary officer, said the threat of ASF is being taken seriously and the MPI is actively monitoring the outbreak. She noted that the most recent detection in Sweden is in a very small number of wild boars.

“We strengthened border biosecurity in early 2020 after ASF was detected in Papua New Guinea,” she said.

“We updated relevant Import Health Standards, increased awareness from border staff, carried out verification of food imports from companies at risk of importing undeclared meat, and increased public information to travellers at the border.” 

She said most of the ASF spread in Europe is associated with wild boar but some longer-distance spread could be associated with humans taking meat or infected hunting equipment from restricted zones.

“Because of this, all pork products are excluded for personal consignments,” she said of NZ restrictions.

Travellers trying to bring illegal pork or other illegal meat products into NZ will have them confiscated and face penalties.

She said fresh or frozen pork is imported only from ASF-free countries, zones or regions. All other imported pork products have undergone a heat treatment process, such as canning, which destroys the ASF virus.

The ASF virus first appeared in 2007 and has spread rapidly through Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific, affecting both domestic and wild pigs.

The virus is highly resistant and can survive in pork products, including ham, sausages and bacon, as well as on clothes, boots, wheels and other materials. It can exist for weeks in refrigerated pork, over a year in dried product and indefinitely in frozen pork. It can spread by air for over 2m between infected and susceptible pigs. 

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