Govt making 'pig's ear' of raw pork imports

The Government is making a "pig's ear" of managing biosecurity risks, a Green Party MP says.

The Government's decision to relax border standards for the import of pig meat had placed the New Zealand pork industry at unacceptable risk, Greens biosecurity spokesman Kevin Hague said today.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this week announced new import health standards for raw pork, and Mr Hague said there were concerns that this could lead to an incursion by a debilitating animal disease, Porcine Reproductive And Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).

Biosecurity officials last year proposed rules that would allow imports of consumer-ready cuts of uncooked pork from Canada, Europe, Mexico and the United States, but were advised by a review panel to look at 29 deficiencies, including their import risk assessment.

But MAF yesterday said it had issued updates to import health standards for pig meat, pig meat products and by-products which would effectively manage the risk of introducing PRRS to New Zealand.

It said imports of fresh uncooked pork would be restricted to cuts smaller than 3kg that had the lymph nodes removed.

"The risk of PRRS introduction through pork imports will be effectively managed," MAF's deputy director-general for standards, Carol Barnao, said.

"The likelihood of the virus being introduced through the importation of uncooked pork would be equivalent to an average of one outbreak per 1227 years."

But Mr Hague said the Government had made the changes despite advice from Massey University scientists that importation of raw pig meat from countries with PRRS involved substantial risk that the disease would become established in New Zealand within a few years.

"We should support our primary industries, not expose them to risk of costly biosecurity incursions," he said.

The changes potentially threatened New Zealand "100 percent pure" branding and perceptions of the nation as a disease-free producer of quality products.

The new biosecurity standard effectively subsidised imported pork, by making it harder for New Zealand pork farmers to convert to humane animal welfare practices.

"These changes are not good for the New Zealand economy, animal welfare, or consumers," he said.

A pig-farming lobby, New Zealand Pork, said it was concerned that waste from imported pig meat could end up in the food chain for New Zealand livestock, and potentially spread PRRS.

But New Zealand Pork said that pigmeat currently imported from countries with PRRS must undergo treatment to deactivate the disease, and eliminating that treatment would open the door for transmission of the disease.

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