February 4, 2023

Viral fragments of foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever have been found in pork products at a Melbourne retailer.

Australia remains free of the diseases as the live virus was not detected, but Agriculture Secretary Murray Watt reiterated the importance of biosecurity measures.

The products, believed to be imported from China, were detected in Melbourne’s CBD as part of routine surveillance and have been seized.

It is the first time viral fragments have been detected in a retail environment, Senator Watt said.

“This isn’t the first time in Australian history that we’ve picked up viral fragments of foot-and-mouth disease in meat products – it’s happened a number of other times at airports,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“On one level, these detections are very disturbing, but on another level, they show that our boundaries are strong and our systems are working.

“I want to reassure people that our systems have worked, we checked this, we conducted surveillance operations and these products have been found, tested and now seized.”

Agriculture Secretary Murray Watts said the products had been seized because authorities were monitoring routinely

Investigations continued into how the products entered Australia and prosecutions were likely, Senator Watt said.

“If you do the wrong thing, you’ll get caught. If you try to bring products into the country without declaring them, you will get caught,” he said.

“If you try to bring or post products in the country, you will be caught and we will take action.”

The detection comes as sanitary mats will be rolled out at international airports in an effort to prevent foot-and-mouth disease from entering Australia on travelers’ shoes.

It is the latest measure by the federal government to prevent an outbreak of livestock disease on Australia’s coasts.

Indonesia is struggling with the spread of the disease that was recently discovered in Bali, a popular holiday destination for Australian travelers.

If the disease is allowed to spread in Australia, it is predicted to wreak havoc on the economy of $80 billion in ten years.

Senator Watt said the mats would add an extra layer of defense against an outbreak.

But Australians returning from the region are still required to clean their shoes and clothes, or leave their shoes abroad if possible, he said.

“There is no panacea when it comes to biosecurity, none of these measures will work on their own,” Senator Watt said.

“It’s a shared responsibility and again, we need people who take responsibility.”

The mats will be rolled out this week, starting at Darwin and Cairns airports.

The mats dissolve the dirt that remains in the traveler’s shoes

They are intended as a physical reminder to travelers about the risk of the disease, Senator Watt said.

Travelers arriving in Australia from Indonesia will be asked to walk on the mats to sanitize their shoes.

The mats contain a citric acid solution, designed to remove dirt from the shoe sole and coat it with acid.

Other biosecurity measures include passenger declarations, profiling of all travelers entering from Indonesia, real-time risk assessments, interrogation and shoe cleaning.

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Last week, the government announced a $14 million biosecurity package for increased frontline defenses at airports and postal centers, as well as support for Indonesia and neighboring countries to stop the spread.

Senator Watt will meet with his state and territory counterparts for the first joint meeting in eight months to discuss further measures.

Foot-and-mouth disease would be devastating to the Australian livestock industry and wreaking havoc in the meat department