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Canada ASF messages a lesson to our Government

6th Jun 2019 / By Alistair Driver

All around the world, customs authorities are taking the threat of African swine fever (ASF) very seriously.

There have been numerous well-documented examples of infected pork products being seized at airports, including in Japan, Australia and Taiwan. The US authorities, which recently announced additional testing of pigs for ASF, seized 1 million pounds of meat products smuggled in from China as part of its enhanced surveillance programme.

 At May’s Pigs Tomorrow Conference delegates heard some of the measures Canada was taking to protect pigs from diseases live ASF and PED, including individual truck washes and ‘baking facilities where trucks get heated up to kill the virus’.

The NPA also has first-hand evidence of how seriously Canada is taking the risk of potentially infected meat coming through its airports. Chairman Richard Lister arrived for a holiday in Vancouver last week and was struck by the prominence of the messages were at the airport.

“The Canadian messaging on ASF was very clear in Vancouver airport - big overhead signs in customs in English, Chinese and German. No-one entering Canada is under any illusions about the risks of spreading ASF associated with bringing meat into the country,” he said.

He took some photos:

 Canada sign

Canada sign 3

Canada sign 3

It is not just at points of entry where the point is being made. Senior policy advisor Ed Barker is also in Canada (not with Richard, but on honeymoon!) and when he applied online for his visa, the ASF message was prominently displayed, as you can see here

 Canada online visa

The NPA is hugely impressed with what Canada, the US, Australia and others are doing. But its begs a question – are our authorities putting in the same effort? Unfortunately, we don’t think so.

“My biggest fear is that somebody brings some infected meat, from China or another infected country into the UK and its gets into our pigs,” chief executive Zoe Davies said.

“The implications of an ASF outbreak for the UK would be catastrophic. But we do not see our customs authorities taking the threat as seriously as some other countries.

“We want to see better signage at airports and we will be forwarding the examples from Canada to Defra to show how it should be done. We also want to more resources dedicated to checking people are not illegally bringing meat into the UK.”

“Having just taken the new Director for exotic disease policy out on farm, I am now aware that plans are afoot with Defra and UK Border force to put more resource in at points of entry, but clearly the sooner the better.”