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NPA welcomes Defra plans to step up ASF border controls

4th Jul 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has welcomed plans by Defra to step up its efforts to keep African swine fever (ASF) out of the UK.

The Department is working on a new poster campaign at points of entry 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.

Defra is also working with Border Force on improving its work in targeting and seizing illegally imported meat products from high risk areas.

While ASF has never been recorded in the UK, the spokesperson stressed that Defra was 'not complacent' and already has robust measures in place to protect against animal disease outbreaks.

“Since the spread of the disease into Europe, control measures have been put in place to ensure that there is no trade with the UK in live pigs, wild boar, or meat products from affected areas. Trade in live pigs, wild boar, or meat products from ASF affected Third Countries to the UK is prohibited," he said.

“We are also working closely with the pig sector to raise awareness of the risks and advise on maintaining high biosecurity standards, which should minimise the risk of infected meat products being illegally or accidentally fed to feral wild boar or domestic pigs.”

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.

Canada sign 2Defra 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 (pictured, right). 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.

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,” she said. 

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.