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NPA welcomes new Government restrictions on pork imports to protect pig herd from ASF

31st Aug 2022 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has welcomed the introduction of new restrictions on the movement of pork and pork products into Great Britain from tomorrow to help safeguard pigs from the threat of African swine fever (ASF). 

ASF new controlsThe new control, which comes into force from Thursday, September 1, will strengthen the requirements for bringing pork and pork products into Great Britain from the EU and EFTA states.

It will no longer be legal to bring in pork or pork products weighing over two kilograms, unless they are produced to the EU’s commercial standards. This does not apply to commercial imports, which remain unaffected by the control.

This action comes following the publication of a new risk assessment by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which recognises that the chance that the ASF virus may be brought into Great Britain now stands at ‘medium risk’.

It found that the most likely way the virus could be introduced to Great Britain is by a member of the public bringing pork or pork products back from an ASF-affected country. This measure will help limit possibly infected pig meat being brought into Great Britain through various means, such as in passengers’ luggage or in vehicles. 

ASF has emerged in new areas in mainland Europe in recent months, notably in Germany and Italy, where human spread has been blamed on the virus suddenly appearing hundreds of kilometres away from existing cases. This ongoing spread of ASF in a number of European has resulted in the deaths of thousands of pigs and caused significant disruption to the meat trade, including damaging export bans, particularly in Germany.

It has also heightened concerns in the UK particularly in light of the decision by the Government to abandon plans to introduce full checks on EU food imports in July. This prompted calls from the NPA and others for the Government to take action to reduce the risk of the ASF virus getting into the country.

The Government acknowledged that with no vaccine available, the disease 'poses a significant risk to our domestic pig herd and our long-term ability to export pork and other pork products around the globe'.

Biggest threats

Biosecurity Minister Lord Richard Benyon said: An outbreak of African swine fever is one of the biggest threats our pig industry faces today. We are not complacent and this decisive and proportionate action will stop the entry of pork products that pose the greatest risk. It is essential we maintain the highest levels of biosecurity and all visitors to the UK will need to abide by these new regulations.”

The UK’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Richard Irvine said:  “If African swine fever ever reached the UK it would have a severe and damaging impact on our pigs and pig industry. A single outbreak of this highly infectious disease would also harm relations with our trading partners and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of our pig farmers.

“We are taking this action to limit the risk of disease spreading by banning people bringing in high-risk pork and pork products that could carry this virus until further notice. Everyone can do their bit to help stop animal diseases spreading to this country by simply not bringing pork and other meats onto our shores.”

NPA response 

The NPA welcomed the announcement. Senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said: "We are very pleased that Government has understood the risk African swine fever poses to our national pig herd and in listening to our call for action is now significantly strengthening the protection of our borders.

"Notifiable diseases such as ASF not only compromise the health and welfare of the pigs and potentially devastate businesses up and down the country, but an outbreak would also have huge implications for our ability to trade. The risk of ASF has never been so great and the recent outbreaks linked to human movement in Italy and Germany have served as a stark reminder of just how vulnerable we are.

"Producers do their very best to maintain high levels of biosecurity for their individual herds, and the new controls now recognise the importance of national biosecurity to complement this.

"As NPA we thank Government for recognising and addressing the risk of ASF and we will continue to work with them on this integral policy area."

 Advice on keeping ASF out the UK

Everyone can help to stop the spread of ASF to the UK by doing the following:

  • If you are visiting non-EU countries, you must not bring any pork or pork products back to the UK.
  • If you are visiting EU or EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein), you must not bring pork or pork products which are over 2kg unless they meet EU commercial production standards.
  • Disposing of leftovers or food waste in secure bins that pigs or wildlife cannot access.
  • Farmers, the public and members of the food industry should practice high biosecurity standards, including never feeding catering waste, kitchen scraps or meat products to pigs, which is illegal and can spread the disease.

The Government added that it continually monitors disease outbreaks around the world to assess whether there may be risks for the UK and takes action to limit the risk of the disease reaching our shores.