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NZ Pork Imports Under More Scrutiny

by 5m Editor
30 April 2010, at 7:40am

NEW ZEALAND - Federated Farmers says its concerns over biosecurity standards for pork imports have been vindicated by an independent review which has told the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to go back to the drawing board on the provisional standards for pig meat.

MAF said it is meeting pork industry representatives today to seek their views before it makes a decision on the way forward. It has declined further comment until it decides what action it will take, reports TVNZ.

Farmers are concerned that waste from imported pig meat could end up in the food chain for New Zealand livestock, and potentially spread a disease.

MAF 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 the panel recommended this week that MAF look at 29 deficiencies, including its import risk assessment.

The panel, headed by Helen Aikman QC, said all assumptions and likelihoods used by MAF should have an identifiable basis and source, ideally from a scientific peer-reviewed publication

It recommended MAF allow for the possibility that imported pig meat will contain material from pigs infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Uncertainty in the original MAF analysis might be increased "due to the fact that only one study was conducted and the population sampled may be different from populations in other regions or countries," the panel said.

The pork industry asked for the review last year because it feared the standards weren't enough to keep the disease out of New Zealand. Pork Industry Board chief executive Sam McIvor said yesterday that the industry was pleased that the panel recognised its concerns.

The federation warned last year that the provisional import health standards for pork could set a dangerous precedent in biosecurity and a spokesman, John Hartnell, today said that an expert independent panel had questioned MAF's assumptions and scientific reasoning.

Mr Hartnell said deficiencies exposed in the review included MAF making decisions on inconclusive or very little data and a lack of consultation with key stakeholders and specialists.

"MAF's hypothesis, that cuts of up to 3kg would result in negligible uncooked pig meat waste, was challenged and the review panel has recommended further consideration of this figure be undertaken," he said.

Industry groups and others have the right to challenge scientific evidence used by MAF in framing its import health standards, and Mr Hartnell said farmers and exporters needed confidence that the border protection processes being sued were robust.

"We must collectively ensure MAF's deficiencies are ... addressed quickly," he said. "Brand New Zealand really hinges on biosecurity, as keeping the bad stuff out is central to consumer trust".

Mr Hartnell said the pig meat imports were the second time an independent review had found fault with a MAF biosecurity import health standard.

The first was MAF's decision to allow honey and bee product imports from Australia, which the New Zealand bee industry last year successfully challenged in court.

It argued that MAF could not approve Australian honey imports when it expected they would bring "new" organisms across the border.

The Government later altered the law to allow for MAF to handle the risk of such "passenger" organisms, rather than new organism regulators.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.
- Find out more information on PRRS by clicking here.