African swine fever worry as Dover authorities seize illegal meat

The checks by the Dover Port Health Authority follows the introduction of new ASF rules by the government
The checks by the Dover Port Health Authority follows the introduction of new ASF rules by the government

Authorities in Dover have uncovered and seized large volumes of raw meat from countries that have reported African swine fever (ASF) in their pig herds.

Dover Port Health Authority inspectors found the illegal meat products after searching 22 vehicles of Romanian, Moldovan, Ukrainian and Polish origin.

Raw animal products were discovered, loosely stored in carrier bags and paper tissue without temperature control, refrigeration or labelled identification.

In one case, raw, unlabelled and loosely-wrapped pork was found at the bottom of a taped-up wheelie bin, which was filled with other products intended for free circulation within the UK.

Romania has just reported a fresh ASF outbreak on a large farm, the latest in a growing number of confirmed cases this year.

The checks follows the introduction of new rules by the government making it illegal from September to bring pork or pork products weighing over 2kg into the country unless they are produced to the EU’s commercial standards.

The change, which followed intense lobbying by the UK's National Pig Association (NPA), was introduced to raise the country's defences against ASF.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke told parliamentarians during a House of Commons debate that the illegal pork trade was 'rife' at the port of Dover.

“We need to remember that it is not 22 vehicles a day entering the UK at Dover. There are up to 10,000 vehicle movements across the channel each day,” Ms Elphicke said.

“It is clear that the risk of maggoty meat, meat of unknown origin, which often means horse or other illegal meat, rotting meat due to the lack of temperature controls, as well as fresh blood dripping on to other products, is of real concern."

Ms Elphicke highlighted the ASF risk, citing government warnings that the disease "poses a significant risk to our pig herd and our long-term ability to export pork and pork products around the globe."

“The illegal pork trade is rife at the port of Dover - so rife that around 80% of that illegal trade comes through the short straits. Without adequate checks, there is nothing to stop it,” the MP added.

NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale said the body was ‘very pleased’ when the government introduced new restrictions on the movement of pork and pork products.

“We had been calling for action for some time,” she said, “The aim of the restrictions is to stop illegal consignments such as this.

“ASF is a notifiable disease which not only would severely compromise the health and welfare of pigs and can potentially devastate businesses up and down the country, it would also have huge implications for our ability to export pigmeat, which is important for carcase balance."