10 Apr 2009

Imported pig meat standard too risky, say farmers

8:27 pm on 10 April 2009

A proposed new standard for imported pig meat is an unnacceptable biosecurity risk, New Zealand farmers say.

Biosecurity New Zealand has issued provisional health standards for the importation of chilled pig meat, which the pork industry says could allow a contagious pork disease to enter the supply chain.

Federated Farmers says a New Zealand pig herd could be infected with Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome if diseased raw pork was fed to an unregistered pig.

Its biosecurity spokepserson, John Hartnell, says rules preventing pigs being fed the chilled pork could easily be broken and that will allow the virus to spread.

It says the most likely place for this to happen would be on a lifestyle block or in a city suburb.

Mr Hartnell says Federated Farmers will be taking the matter up with the Minister of Agriculture after Easter.

The pork industry believes the new standard for imported pig meat is a "time bomb" for New Zealand.

The Pork Industry Board says its inevitable that a New Zealand pig will now be fed pork meat infected with Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome, thereby putting a $700 million industry at risk.

But Biosecurity New Zealand says there has never been an instance of the syndrome as a result of imported pig meat.

The syndrome can result in outbreaks of abortion among pigs, the death of piglets and respiratory disease in all ages of pigs. It is found in many pig-producing countries, though not Australia and New Zealand.

At present, imported pork products must be treated or frozen, eliminating the disease risk.

The new import health standards would allow the importation of chilled pig meat in the form of consumer-ready cuts, which Biosecurity New Zealand says would minimise the risk of leftover meat being fed to pigs.

Deputy director-general Barry O'Neil says the new standards would apply to meat imported from Canada, the European Union, Mexico and the United States where the disease is present.

Mr O'Neil says there is a 10-day grace period within which applications can be made for an independent review of the science involved in the provisional import health standard, and if that does not happen it will come into effect.

Pork Industry Board chief executive Sam McIvor says his organisation will definitely seek a review of the standard, which he describes as a "slap in the face" for the industry.