A special month-long biosecurity effort in October tested Australia’s ability to keep African swine fever (ASF) out of their country.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said Operation Conway involved the screening of passengers and crew arriving on certain flights from countries affected by the disease for pork products and other high-risk material, The West Australian reports.
More than 1,000 passengers and crew were screened using a combination of x-ray, manual inspection and detector dogs from five flights originating from countries where ASF was confirmed present, the article said. The screenings were conducted by teams of biosecurity officers deployed at Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin.
The results? The teams discovered 28 infringements and issued 17 written warnings during the operation, resulting in the seizure of 44 kilograms of high-risk products, including 12 kilograms of pork, chicken and beef products.
Of the pork products seized, 22% tested positive for ASF, McKenzie said.
“African swine fever is not present in Australia and our government is determined to keep it that way, to protect our agriculture industries, our environment and our reputation as one of the world’s most sought after suppliers of safe, clean and green food and fiber,” McKenzie said in a media release.
The operation proved that despite the risk to Australia, some people are still doing the wrong thing and bringing in products that could cause an outbreak here, McKenzie explained in the release.
“The levels of non-compliance and other intelligence gathered in this operation are used to refine profiling as well as to inform the sorts of screening activities we undertake so we can make sure we have the best measures in operation to protect Australia from this terrible disease,” she said in the release. “As well as heightened screening for pork products at airports and mail centers, our government has strengthened compliance action at the airport which has resulted in a significant increase in the number of infringement notices being issued.”
They have also redeployed detector dogs to Cairns and Darwin, and placed ASF signage at international airports to ensure passengers declare all pork items.
“There’s no vaccine and no cure and it kills about 80% of the pigs it infects, so this exercise aimed to test the performance of current controls to deter the illegal importation by travelers of African Swine Fever risk products,” McKenzie added.
ASF, a highly contagious disease of pigs only, is not harmful to humans and poses no food safety risk. For more information on the spread of ASF, visit porkbusiness.com/ASF.
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