Biosecurity risks at Victoria’s doorstep

8 April 2021

Recent detections of African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease virus fragments in pork products seized at the border highlights the real and continuous threat of exotic diseases and pests to Victoria.

Foot-and-mouth disease is Australia’s biggest agricultural biosecurity threat, affecting all clovenhoofed animals. African swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs which can lead to mortality rates of up to 100 per cent in affected herds. Neither disease affects humans, but an outbreak could have serious economic and animal health impacts, including the loss of important export markets.

No outbreaks of African swine fever have ever been recorded in Australia, and foot-and-mouth disease hasn’t been detected in Australia since the 1800s. Agriculture Victoria is working closely with industry to prepare for these threats.

The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment led two collection periods over busy periods between Christmas and Chinese New Year from international mail centres at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Over the periods, some pork samples tested positive for fragments of African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease virus. This builds on similar test results released in 2019.

Acting Chief Veterinary Officer for Victoria Dr Sally Salmon said the recent detections by the Commonwealth highlighted how easily diseases and pests could enter Australia and urged all Victorians to be aware of biosecurity risks.

'Whether it’s in someone’s luggage or in the mail, bringing in food, especially meat products, can also bring in diseases like African swine fever or even foot-and-mouth disease, which could devastate Australia’s agricultural industries and the broader economy for many years,' Dr Salmon said.

'It’s not enough to rely on quarantine inspections to stop potential pests and disease threats at our borders. When buying food and other goods online, always consider where they are coming from and whether they will meet biosecurity requirements before ordering them.'

'Biosecurity is everyone’s role and requires responsible actions by everyone. We all need to help protect our agriculture, our economy and our unique natural environment.'

Dr Salmon said the detection was also a timely reminder to all pig owners not to feed waste foods (swill) to pigs.

'Swill feeding or feeding "people food" to pigs is prohibited in Australia. It is illegal to feed food waste containing meat, meat products and any food that was served on the same plate or that has come into contact with meat, as well as imported dairy products, to pigs,' she said.

'Swill feeding is prohibited in Australia because of its potential to introduce serious animal diseases like African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease. These recent findings clearly emphasise why that prohibition is so necessary.'

For more information about emergency animal diseases, visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Media contact: Maggie Hill 0428 135 826