August 25, 2011


New Zealand's industry board confronts pork import standards



The New Zealand Pork Industry Board is questioning a decision by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to issue four updated import health standards for pig meat, products and by-products which would allow consumer-ready cuts of uncooked pork to be imported from the US, Canada, Mexico and the EU.


These regions all have the disease porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).


New Zealand Pork, in April, said imports from countries with PRRS had to undergo treatment to deactivate the disease. The requirement would be removed under the proposals.


"This opens the door for transmission of the disease," it said.


Sam McIvor, chief executive of New Zealand Pork, has said producers were extremely concerned about the risks of relaxing biosecurity standards. "It just doesn't make sense to introduce pig welfare standards on one hand while putting them at risk of this imported, highly distressing disease on the other."


MAF deputy director-general Carol Barnao in May said that the ministry would vigorously defend its decision.


"Our decision to issue these standards was only made after years of assessing all available science and carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment process, which showed us that the risks from PRRS can be effectively managed through the risk management measures outlined in the standards," she said.


Those measures included restricting imports of uncooked cuts to those that have had the lymph nodes removed and are lighter than 3kg.


MAF said there was no such thing as zero risk with bio security and a risk model showed the likelihood of the virus being introduced was equivalent to one outbreak every 1227 years.


Under the World Trade Organisation Agreement, to which New Zealand was a signatory, sanitary measures imposed on imports had to be in accordance with a scientific analysis of the risks and measures that were not supported by science constituted a trade protection mechanism, it said.


An earlier High Court order granted New Zealand Pork interim relief to prohibit the importation of fresh, uncooked pork while the matter was before the courts.

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