The Feds’ seizure of one million pounds of pork from China in the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey on Friday has pork producers and industry leaders concerned but also grateful for the diligence of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) teams to protect U.S. borders.
This seizure comes in the face of China’s devastating outbreak of the deadly foreign animal disease (FAD) African swine fever (ASF). ASF is a highly transmissible virus that affects pigs, not humans. The ASF virus survives 150 to 180 days in fresh meat. In frozen meat, reports say the virus can live indefinitely. It is illegal to import pork products from countries like China that have ASF-positive pig populations.
"Preventing the spread of African swine fever to the United States is our top priority,” the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said in an official statement. “We are thankful to CBP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their increased vigilance and the expanded resources they have put in place to prevent ASF's spread to the United States, a development that would threaten animal health and immediately close our export markets at a time when we are already facing serious trade headwinds.”
The contraband shipment, which will be safely and securely destroyed in accordance with U.S. government policy, reportedly contained products derived from pork, such as flavorings in ramen noodles, and did not include fresh meat.
Lori Stevermer, a pig farmer from Minnesota and a member of the NPPC Board of Directors, said it’s disheartening to see these types of illegal activities happening.
“The seizure heightens the awareness of how close ASF could be to entering the U.S, which is very concerning,” Stevermer said. “I’m pleased that the USDA has committed to increasing preventative measures like additional beagles and handlers. I was at National Pork Forum and voted on the resolutions to prevent FAD’s from entering the U.S. Those were important resolutions and perhaps even more so now since the seizure of illegal pork.”
According to Jim Wiesemeyer of Pro Farmer, traders are questioning if the smuggled products were infected with ASF and where the products were going.
“I hope they aggressively prosecute and make an example out of all parties,” said Clayton Johnson, DVM, of Carthage Vet Clinic. “This is an attack on our industry and our farming families – I applaud the USDA for their efforts in seizing this illegal and dangerous product and hope they are afforded additional resources toward their border patrol efforts.”
The bottom line? Illegal import/export activities like this can't stand and must be met with swift and severe penalties to discourage others from attempting to transport contraband products across our borders, NPPC said.
“Prevention of ASF is our only defense; we must remain on high alert at our airports and sea ports to prevent the illegal entry of meat products and be diligent in our farm biosecurity protocols,” NPPC said. “We are hopeful that others considering illegal import/export activity like this will take note of the severe consequences.”
Meanwhile in Canada, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced on Monday new funding of up to $31 million to increase the number of detector dogs at Canadian airports to help prevent illegally imported meat products from entering into Canada. The funding will allow for 24 additional detector dog teams over five years, bringing the total number to 39 Food, Plant, and Animal Detector Dog Service (DDS) teams.
Canada will be hosting the first international ASF forum in Ottawa from April 30 to May 1 in collaboration with the U.S. and supported by leaders from Mexico; the European Union; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE); provincial, territorial and state partners; and industry.
The U.S. pork industry remains on high alert.
"Along with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, National Pork Board and the Swine Health Information Center, NPPC continues to work closely with U.S. government officials to strengthen safeguards against the spread of ASF and other animal diseases," NPPC said.