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Posted: 2019-10-04

Sniffer dogs help combat threat of ASF
A sniffer dog at work in Heathrow Airport

Border controls increased to find illegal meat

On 3 October, biosecurity Minister, Lord Gardiner and the UK chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, visited Heathrow Airport to find out more about the work of the Border Force and its highly trained sniffer dogs in ensuring the UK remains free of African swine fever (ASF).
 
Officials will enforce controls at the border by using sniffer dogs and searching freight, passengers and luggage. They will seize and destroy illegally imported meat products. This is because ASF is highly contagious and the virus can survive in pork meat products, even if cooked or frozen.  
 
The exercise that Lord Gardiner and the CVO witnessed was focused on passenger arrivals directly from SE Asian countries where African swine fever is prevalent. The disease, which poses no threat to human health but is fatal for pigs, has already spread widely across Asia – including China and Vietnam – and parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Cases have also been reported throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
 
ASF has led to the deaths of over 800,000 pigs and wild boar in Europe and an estimated four million pigs in Asia, causing global pork prices to rise. If the disease were to be found in this country, it could have a devastating impact on the UK’s commercial pig stock of five million pigs, as well as the trade of our pork products.
 
Christine Middlemiss, said:  “This morning I witnessed first-hand Border Force’s great work to ensure the UK remains ASF free. However, we all have a role to play and it is crucial that anyone travelling from affected regions doesn’t bring pork meat products into the UK.”
 
In July, Defra launched a new campaign, working closely with the Devolved Administrations, at the UK’s border to help keep the disease out of the country; and universities have been asked to contact international students about not bringing in meat products when they come to the UK to study.

The main ways that the disease can be spread are:

  • tourists or travellers bringing contaminated pork products with them from infected areas. All travellers are strongly advised to avoid bringing any pork products – including preserved meats, ham or pork sandwiches – back to the UK
  • pig keepers and members of the public feeding catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products to their animals. It is illegal to do so
  • travellers returning from ASF-affected areas coming into contact with domestic pigs, commercial holdings or smallholdings; because the disease can spread via contaminated clothing, footwear or equipment
  • contaminated vehicles and equipment being taken onto commercial pig premises or workers wearing contaminated clothing or boots when entering pig premises.



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