British pig producers have welcomed government plans to step up African swine fever (ASF) border controls.
Defra is launching a new poster campaign at points of entry as part of wider efforts to raise awareness of disease risks.
Namely, 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,” a department 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.
He said: “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.
“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.”
Meat entering in passenger luggage
In its latest ASF assessment, the Animal and Plant Health Agency highlighted ‘ongoing concerns’ around pork products from China entering the EU in passenger luggage and being discarded in areas where wild boar or domestic pigs are present.
Defra has been under pressure for some time from the National Pig Association (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.
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.