No biosecurity checks make UK borders vulnerable to African Swine Fever
According to a recent government report, the African Swine Fever virus is moving closer to the UK after jumping 600km across Germany and being discovered on a pig farm close to the French border. This is most likely to have happened via contaminated meat products being discarded near the farm by people travelling into the area. It could have been transmitted via something as innocuous as a meat sandwich.
The UK is currently free of African Swine Fever, but this latest development has prompted concern amongst domestic pig farmers and processors that the government’s decision to shelve all border checks on food until further notice, leaves them vulnerable to an outbreak of the virus. And although less transmissible than foot and mouth disease, the consequences would be equally devastating for the UK pig industry.
Any farm where an infection occurs would mean the entire herd being culled, regardless of how many animals are affected. But on a wider scale, the arrival of African Swine Fever would cause an immediate ban on UK pork exports to some of our biggest international trading partners, including China. This would cause a significant drop in meat exports and cost the industry millions in lost trade.
Technically, inbound visitors to the UK are no longer allowed to bring in food items post-Brexit, however this rule is currently being waived and there is still little or no signage at ports of entry informing people of the new rules.
Nick Allen, CEO of The British Meat Processors Association said: “We are calling on the government to make travelers more aware of the risks of bringing prohibited food items into the UK and to encourage them to dispose of those products responsibly before entry. We would also like to see spot checks introduced as a further measure to improve biosecurity.”
These measures alone won’t completely insulate Britain from African Swine Fever, but any additional measures would be better than the open border policy currently that is currently in place.