Australia tightens meat import rules for foot-and-mouth disease

AUSTRALIA has banned imports of meat products for personal use from all countries with foot-and-mouth disease, a step that the government said was unprecedented to keep the country free of the virus. 

The new restrictions will cover some highly processed meat products for personal use, such as pate, pork crackling or meat floss, Murray Watt, the agriculture minister, said in a statement Wednesday (Sep 7). He added that this was the first time such strong measures had been enforced.

Australia has ramped up surveillance and measures at borders to prevent an incursion after the discovery of foot-and-mouth disease in Indonesia, where it has swept through cattle herds and reached tourist hotspot Bali. The disease is a serious threat to Australia's livestock industry and a widespread outbreak would potentially have a direct economic impact of A$80 billion (S$75.7 billion). 

Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. It is characterised by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves.

The disease is endemic and estimated to circulate in almost 80 per cent of the global livestock population, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in a limited area of South America. Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, North and Central America are free of the disease, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

In July, Australia found traces of foot-and-mouth disease in a sample of pork floss imported from China that was being offered for sale in Melbourne. While the test did not indicate a live virus, officers seized the product from all linked supermarkets and a warehouse in Melbourne. BLOOMBERG

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