Traces of African Swine Fever (ASF) virus have been found in meat that was brought into Northern Ireland illegally by passengers in the month of June.
In total, airport authorities seized over 300kg of illegal meat in June. The Northern Irish Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said a sample of these seizures was tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), resulting in the detection of African Swine Fever (ASF) virus DNA fragments. A DAERA spokesman confirmed: "DNA fragments of ASF were detected in a sausage from Asia."
DAERA said that whilst this type of discovery in itself does not pose a significant threat to the animal health status of Northern Ireland nor does it affect the disease free status from ASF, it does reinforce the importance of the controls on personal imports of meat and dairy products enforced by DAERA officials.
Specimen items seized and destroyed at local ports in Northern Ireland. Photo: DAERA
Illegal to bring in food products
DAERA chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey warned that it is illegal to bring certain food and plant products back into the country to avoid the risks of importing animal or plant disease. He said, “I make no excuses for repeating this message. The greatest risk is to our agri-food industry and our environment, as any introduction of pests, diseases and non-native species can have a potentially devastating impact.”
DAERA warnings are clear at points of entry into Northern Ireland. They emphasise that meat and dairy products should not be brought into Northern Ireland in passenger’s luggage as such items may be seized by portal inspection branch staff at local ports and airports.