A BAN on the importation of meat products for personal use from all countries with Foot and Mouth Disease has been welcomed by Australian livestock producers.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said the new restrictions, which came into effect from midnight last night, were the next step in the government’s strong, three-pronged approach to tackling FMD.
FMD remains endemic and at a high prevalence in many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. Europe, North and Central America, Pacific nations and the Caribbean are free of the disease.
New South Wales sheep and cattle producer Angus Hobson said the Federal Government’s personal meat product ban is a very constructive move.
“Anything to lessen the risk of an emergency animal disease is welcome.
Mr Hobson said his submission to the Senate inquiry on biosecurity preparedness – that reconvenes this week – was focussed on preventing a FMD incursion.
“This (banning of imported meat for personal use) is part of a prevention of entry matrix…I think it is great.”
South-west Victorian prime lamb and sheep seedstock producer Tim Leeming also supported the Federal Government decision.
“It shows they are putting some actions in place.
“They’ve recognised the threat in the incidents a few months ago when FMD virus particles were found in meat products,” he said.
“Things are happening, so it’s a good sign.
“But we’ve just got to keep the foot on the pedal.”
The two producers were among a group that recently made a submission to the Senate’s inquiry into the Adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures and response preparedness, in particular for FMD. The producers’ submission said Australia’s biosecurity system is underfunded and inadequate to exclude or mitigate a FMD incursion.
Fears of an FMD incursion have heightened since the disease broke out in Indonesia, including Bali, earlier this year, and FMD particles were found in a pork floss product on Melbourne supermarket shelves, and in meat products seized from airline passengers at the Adelaide and Darwin airports in recent months.
The Federal Government recently increased inspection of mail parcels from China and Indonesia and has strengthened airport biosecurity, especially for passengers returning from Indonesia.
“While Australia remains FMD-free, we must remain vigilant to biosecurity threats from overseas,” Mr Watt said.
“Under existing rules, no animals or animal products are allowed into Australia unless they meet our strict biosecurity requirements.
“When FMD was first detected in Indonesia, the Department of Agriculture tightened the rules for commercial imports of FMD-risk products from Indonesia,” he said.
“Then, when the outbreak reached Bali, the Albanese Government moved swiftly to increase the screening of all products arriving from Indonesia via mail.
“But prior to these new changes, private citizens were able to bring in some highly processed meat products for personal use – products like pâté, pork crackling or meat floss,” Mr Watt said.
“With the ongoing spread of diseases like FMD and lumpy skin disease, I asked my department to review our import settings for risk products from all countries with FMD, not just Indonesia.”
Mr Watt said while FMD had been endemic in countries around the world for decades, this was the first time such strong measures had been enforced.
“The former Government did not take this action in response to previous overseas outbreaks, but after considering the evidence, we are not prepared to accept this risk,” he said.
“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and together we can all do our bit to keep Australia pest and disease free.”
More details from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries here.