Farming minister promises vigilance on African swine flu

Border Force officers will be extra vigilant during the Sochi Winter Olympics to ensure that African swine flu is not brought from Russia to Britain, according to food and farming minister George Eustice.

Following recent discoveries that contaminated meat products are being sold in Russia, the National Pig Association (NPA) is concerned about passengers bringing the virus back to the UK.

In a letter to NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, Eustice said: “I fully appreciate the concerns you have expressed on behalf of the UK pig industry about the potential threat from African Swine Fever... Border Force Officers continue to ensure personal imports of meat products are strictly controlled and have identified the period during the Winter Olympics as a period of particular importance.”

The virus is harmless to humans, but fatal to pigs. The NPA said that if it were to arrive in this country it would mean the compulsory slaughter of pigs in affected areas and the loss of Britain’s fast-growing pork export market with non-European Union countries.

Longthorp said: “We – that is the pig industry and government – must do all we can to ensure African swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not get into the UK.

“The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to UK trade, and would undermine all the great work that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs.”

After the spread of the virus from Russia to the Ukraine and Belarus, and now across the European Union border into Lithuania, the NPA has called on the government to introduce announcements on flights from Lithuania.

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