News last update:Feb 25, 2016

Australian importer fined for ham scam

Perth-based Topas and its director, Paqualino Licastro, have been fined in total AUS$25,000 (€17,501) for breach of conditions of their import permit by importing ham from unapproved regions in Italy in 2011.

The company was fined $22,000 (€15,401) and Mr Licastro was fined $3000 (€2100) for offences in relation to the importation of 2241 kilograms of Parma leg ham in a sea freight consignment.

Department of Agriculture's First Assistant Secretary of Compliance, Raelene Vivian, said the prosecution sent a strong message to businesses and individuals who knowingly breach Australian biosecurity laws.

"After breaching their import permit Topas, and Mr Licastro, then failed to act on a directive from the department to move the ham to a coldstore facility," Ms Vivian said.

"Products containing animal or plant material may carry exotic pests or disease which could have devastating impacts on human, animal and plant health.

"That's why these requirements are critical—for instance if Foot-and-mouth disease were to enter Australia it would cost the economy more than $50 billion over 10 years."

The department ordered that the ham be held pending sampling and testing for staphylococcus, listeria, E.coli and salmonella before it could be sold or distributed.

"Despite this directive, the company sold 220 kilograms of the ham to retailers without the required testing," Ms Vivian said.

"Topas Pty Ltd has been punished for knowingly breaching our import and food control requirements.

"As this case shows, we have a zero tolerance approach to companies and individuals who engage in unlawful conduct—and we will take action against them.

"We have a shared responsibility to minimise the impacts of biosecurity threats which is why honest import declarations and having the necessary import permits are not only a legal requirement, but a biosecurity must."

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