The government has launched a new awareness campaign warning travellers at UK ports and airports of the dangers of bringing African swine fever.
The campaign aims to safeguard the UK’s pig industry by targeting anyone who has the potential to introduce the virus to the UK.
It includes a new poster campaign which will be introduced throughout the summer to raise awareness of the disease and the risks of bringing back contaminated products.
Border Force officers enforce controls at the border on illegal meat by searching freight, passengers and luggage and will seize and destroy illegally imported meat products, Defra said.
The National Pig Association (NPA) welcomed the launch of the campaign, calling it an 'important step' in combating ASF.
The announcement comes after ASF DNA was detected in a sausage seized by officials in Northern Ireland last June, as part of a 300kg seizure of illegally imported meat.
Lord Gardiner, Defra's minister for security said: “While there has never been an outbreak of African swine fever in the UK, we are not complacent and already have robust measures in place to protect against animal disease outbreaks.
“This poster campaign at UK airports and ports adds to the strict control measures we have put in place to ensure that no live pigs, wild boar or pork products from affected areas reach the UK.
“It is essential all tourists and holidaymakers do not bring to the UK any pork products to protect the UK’s high biosecurity,” he said.
Christine Middlemiss, the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer said keeping African swine fever out of the UK was one of her top priorities
"As we have seen around the world, its impact on pig farmers and the wider pork industry has been devastating," she said.
“The virus survives incredibly well in pork meat and can survive for months in smoked, dried and cured meats and likely years in frozen meat.
“That is why it is crucial that anyone travelling from affected regions takes this advice seriously in order to ensure that there is no spread of the disease to animals in the UK.”
The government has estimated that a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ ASF outbreak could cost the United Kingdom £90 million.
But the NPA's chief executive, Dr Zoë Davies said: "We believe the figure would be much higher and that is why we need to mobilise every available resource and effort to help prevent such a catastrophe.”
ASF has spread widely across Asia – including China and Vietnam – and parts of Central and Eastern Europe, with also been reported throughout Sub Saharan Africa.
The disease has resulted in the loss of over 800,000 pigs and wild boar in Europe and an estimated four million pigs in Asia, causing global pork prices to rise.