Holiday makers warned not to bring home food amid swine fever fears

Creed urges everyone coming in from abroad to help prevent spread of pig virus

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Holiday makers are being asked to be vigilant about bringing home food products such as ham sandwiches from their holidays abroad in order to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF).

The Minister for Agriculture and Food Michael Creed said the introduction of Africian Swine Fever would devastate our pig industry and is asking holiday makers to be vigilant about not bringing home food from their holidays abroad.

ASF is a contagious virus which has led to the killing of millions of pigs in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Africa and parts of Europe as it spread in recent months. China’s pig production is forecast to drop by 134m head in 2019 as a result of the rapid spread of the disease.

The disease poses no risk to humans, but Minister Creed warned that if the disease was to spread to Ireland it could put over 300 pig farmers out of business. The virus can spread by accidental acts, he said, and with over 1m Irish people travelling abroad every year there is a high risk of it being spread.

He said that in order to prevent the spread of the disease it’s imperative that consumers do not bring home food from abroad and ensure to dispose of food from abroad properly.

“There is a high risk of coming in contact with this virus and the real danger in spreading it would be that some of those coming back through Cork, Dublin, Shannon or Belfast airports might bring back a ham sandwich in their lunch pack that they’ve brought from eastern Europe or central Europe or from Brussels or wherever and then decides to dispose of that ham sandwich in an inappropriate way,” he told The Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonside Northern Sound.

“If that ham sandwich or some part of it ends up in the food chain for pigs that’s where you have a problem. Tourists going abroad should not under any circumstances bring food back with them. Dispose of it and do not bring food back with you.”

He added that it’s “really critical” that the small minority of those going on hunting holidays take all of the appropriate disinfectant steps  and that commercial pig farmers do not feed waste food that may contain meat or meat products to pigs.

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"There’s no room for complacency here.. A simple ham sandwich or salami or meat product can bring this virus to our doorstep and it would be devastating because pig farmers have had it very difficult and this would be the last straw,” he said.

“Collectively pig farmers and all of us citizens need to be aware what could happen. If you take countries of similar size and exports such as Latvia and Lithuania their pig exports were decimated by this. This would close markets to us and put our pig industry out of business.”

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