Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has again emphasised the importance of protecting the Irish pig industry and the wider economy from African swine fever (ASF), following a detection of traces of the virus at a Northern Ireland airport.

This follows on from reports that the virus has been discovered in several other countries, including Japan and Australia.

Minister Creed stressed that: “We can keep ASF out of Ireland if everyone – including farmers, veterinary practitioners, industry representatives and members of the public – play their part.”

The minister highlighted that ASF can survive for weeks or months in chilled, frozen or preserved pig meat. Its outbreak has been attributed to the (only recently prohibited) practice in Asia of feeding food waste (swill) to pigs, a practice that has been illegal in Ireland since 2001.

In the first three months of 2019, almost 900kg of illegal meat was seized at Dublin Airport by officials from Minister Creed’s department, which was then disposed of under department supervision.

The department and the Irish Customs Service work in conjunction to carry out checks on passenger luggage at Ireland’s airports, which are carried out on a basis of risk, and utilise scanning equipment.

In addition, a sniffer dog is deployed at Dublin Airport.

However, the minister said that these checks were “only one component” of the measures that are necessary to address the ASF risk.

“The critical control measure that will protect Ireland’s valuable pig industry is the implementation by farmers – both commercial and hobby – of strict biosecurity measures on-farm,” Minister Creed argued.

“Farmers must ensure that people do not have access to their pigs and that pigs cannot get access to material containing meat and meat products. Farmers, in particular hobby farmers, are reminded that waste food containing meat and meat products must never be fed to pigs,” he added.

The traces of the ASF virus that were discovered in Northern Ireland were detected among 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products that were seized by officials from the North’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

The virus recently entered the Czech Republic in a similar fashion, and was then transmitted to the country’s wild boar population.