National Farmers' Federation

FMD fragments detected shows system working, but highlights need to continue to strengthen system


Today’s statement regarding the interception of items containing fragments of Foot and Mouth Disease brings home the urgent need to ramp up the resourcing of Australia’s biosecurity systems and implement 100% screening of passengers returning from high-risk areas.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries today advised items containing FMD fragments were identified in a pork product in a Melbourne store, as well as a passenger with a beef product in their luggage at an airport.

This is an example of the system working, and items containing FMD fragments have been seized at the border previously. While farmers are relieved these items were detected by the relevant systems, maintaining our disease-free status, it shows the need to continually ramp up the resourcing of Australia’s biosecurity systems and our at-border measures.

The identification of FMD fragments in ‘pork floss’ in a retail setting in a major city is highly concerning. It is understood it can not be confirmed this product adequately complied with import requirements designed to address biosecurity risks. While our system worked by picking this up, we must throw the book at those responsible if it is found that requirements were deliberately subverted and review the relevant high-risk pathways for any other examples of non-compliance.

The news FMD fragments were detected on a beef product in a traveller’s luggage demonstrates the urgent need to implement the screening of every single passenger returning from high-risk areas. We also want to see more frontline biosecurity officers, and constant review of physical and technological screening methods.

While the system worked in identifying the traveller as high risk, it is understood the returning passenger did not declare their product until questioned by border staff. This is why we need to implement screening – including individual questioning and luggage check – of all travellers from high-risk areas, both at our airports and ports. We must also continually improve our communication methods to ensure all travellers know the importance of following the rules – and the consequences if they do not.

We welcome today’s announcement of foot mats containing a citric acid solution, designed to dislodge dirt from the sole of the shoe and cover it in the-acid. We have called for this and acknowledge the Governments response, but more has to be done.

In addition to these immediate at-border measures, we have long-called for long term sustainable biosecurity funding streams to better resource our excellent front-line staff and systems, as well as the finalisation of the National Biosecurity Strategy. The risks we face today demonstrate why.

Today the system worked – but we must resource it to ensure it continues to do so into the future.