According to a DAERA statement, more than 300 kilograms of illegal meat and dairy products, detected in passenger luggage was been seized by portal officials at Northern Ireland’s airports during June 2019. A sample of these seizures was tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) resulting in the detection of ASF DNA fragments.
Although this does not pose a significant threat to the animal health status of Northern Ireland nor affect the country’s 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.
Chief veterinary officer Dr Robert J Huey said it is illegal to bring certain food and plant products back into the country.
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. Ecosystems can be disrupted with significant knock-on effects on agriculture and the local economy.
“Imports of meat or meat products, milk and other dairy products are banned from most countries outside the EU. There are also strict controls on animal products that can be brought in from the EU, it is always advisable to check the rules before travel and refrain from bringing back animal products or plants that might be carrying pests or disease. Illegal products will be seized and destroyed. Furthermore anyone detected in possession of prohibited items risks prosecution and a fine. So please do not bring any of these products back to Northern Ireland.”
DAERA warned that diseases such as foot-and-mouth cause serious economic impacts and can be brought into Northern Ireland via infected products of animal origin. Animal-related products may also pose a risk to human health from diseases, residues or contaminants. Such diseases and pests can have a disastrous effect on livestock, crops or the environment.
It also highlighted that there is currently a specific concern over the spread of ASF, which is largely attributed to pigs consuming contaminated pork or pork products. The risk to Northern Ireland has steadily increased due to the recent spread of ASF in Belgium, other European countries and South East Asia, including China.
Jim Crummie, director of plant health at DAERA, added: “As well as animal products, fruit and vegetables may also carry pests that can infect plants. We are asking people not to bring plants, seeds or plant products back from their holidays. An attractive flower or some seeds may seem like an innocent souvenir or present but, unknowingly, pests and diseases can be present. There is also a risk that non-native species may be introduced that can have potentially catastrophic consequences on agriculture, horticulture, forestry and the environment if unchecked."