AIR NEW ZEALAND
NZ Pork says people who bring in undeclared, dangerous food should be put on the next flight home.
Incoming tourists who bring in food which risks New Zealand’s biosecurity should be put on the next flight home, NZ Pork chairman Eric Roy says.
The call comes after traces of deadly foot and mouth disease were found in pork products at the Australian border, raising fears it might reach New Zealand.
NZ Pork chairman Eric Roy said it was a warning that New Zealand should get tough on passengers who brought potentially dangerous food in with them.
“Anybody caught with products with risk material, I wonder why those people can’t be returned on the next flight. It would send one of the clearest possible messages: ‘don’t mess with us, our border security is absolutely of paramount importance’.”
He said the Government should not compromise biosecurity by its wish to maximise what it could from tourism. The more people came in, the more the risk increased.
If foot and mouth was to enter the country it would be catastrophic to the economy, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries. It estimates export losses of $14.4 billion, spending of 1.17bn on eradication and livestock compensation for infected properties of $30.8 million.
In 2001 foot and mouth hit Britain, with 2000 cases across a wide area of countryside. More than 10 million sheep and cattle were killed in an attempt to halt the disease, and large areas were closed to the public, damaging tourism. The crisis was estimated to have cost the United Kingdom $15.8bn.
Australian officials started screening products at the end of last year over concerns that they might contain African swine fever, a contagious disease sweeping through parts of Europe and Asia. Those tests revealed 5 per cent had traces of the infection.
In a second round of tests just carried out, the number of ASF-positive samples had risen to 15 per cent, with two samples out of 283 contaminated with foot and mouth virus fragments.
While some of the products, including the foot and mouth-contaminated ones – were declared, others were not. The products were described as “pork jerky, sausages and pork products”.
Roy said he had raised the issue of testing last month in relation to the concerns over ASF, but he was not aware a screening process had started.
Following the latest tests, Australian Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud called for a zero-tolerance policy for travellers failing to declare plant and animal material – including fines, possible criminal prosecution and even refusal of entry for travellers who failed to declare at-risk items more than once.
In China nearly 1 million pigs have been killed to halt the spread of ASF, and France has started to kill wild boars on its Belgium border after an infected boar was found.
The pork industry is worth about $750m a year, but New Zealand now imports 60 per cent of its pork from over 25 countries, including China, Poland and Belgium, which have ASF, as well as Denmark and Spain.
Australia remains ASF-free, but an outbreak there would pose a high risk because it is the fourth-largest exporter of pork to New Zealand.
As well as stepping up surveillance and testing, the Australian Government has introduced an ASF awareness campaign for travellers at airports.
Roy said all airlines should alert passengers to New Zealand’s biosecurity rules before they landed.
There is no effective treatment for ASF, with herds having to be destroyed if any animals are infected. It is not harmful to humans.
The major threat to the local industry was that infected meat from uncooked food might be fed to pigs on lifestyle blocks. New Zealand’s feral pig population could also come into contact with food waste, which has been a factor to the ASF problem in Europe.
Passengers who bring in prohibited food and do not declare it are charged an instant fine of $400.
Immigration NZ can refuse entry to the country for a number of reasons, one of which includes possessing controlled or prohibited substances.