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Overseas Mail – The Hidden F&M Danger

Overseas Mail – The Hidden Danger In The Fight To Stop Foot And Mouth

New Zealanders’ overseas friends and family have become the hidden enemy in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s fight to stop Foot and Mouth Disease entering the country.

A Zebra skin from Africa, a block of cheese from the United Kingdom, pork sausages from France and chicken meat from China, all countries which have Foot and Mouth, are among the latest seizures of illegal goods arriving at MAF’s International Mail Centre at Auckland Airport.

The centre’s group leader Kerry McGuire said although, on this occasion, the sender declared the zebra skin, it was an endangered Hartmann Mountain species and arrived in New Zealand untreated.

MAF had fumigated the skin to kill any pests and diseases and would pass it over to the Department of Conservation the management authority for the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.

As well as Foot and Mouth, the zebra skin could also harbour other diseases as Anthrax, Rinderpest, Equine Encephalosis and Equine Infectious Anaemia as well as parasites such as fleas, lice, hide beetles and ticks.

The sender of the block of cheese, who sent a letter with the parcel, was under MAF investigation, Kerry said.

The number of seizures at the mail center has already climbed 30 per cent ahead of last year now that MAF is checking all mail entering New Zealand for biosecurity risk goods with x-ray machines and sniffer dogs.

Kerry said while the Foot and Mouth outbreak in England and Europe has raised people’s awareness at New Zealand’s border, mail arriving from overseas is the hidden danger.

“People seem to think that by sending illegal goods in the post they are somehow quietly removed and they have less chance of being caught,” he said.

Most of the seized items were sent from New Zealanders’ friends and family living overseas who did not seem to realise the serious threat the products they send could pose for this country, Kerry said. “Our greatest weapon is New Zealanders telling their friends and families about the risks,” he said

Increasing mail orders through the Internet were also compounding the problem.

During a quick walk through the centre’s storage area this week, among the items already mentioned, Kerry also found a host of seized items ranging from the usual beef jerky, cheese, meat products from Europe, sachets of milk drink, honey nectar, fresh fruit, to the bizarre including a bag of dog biscuits from Japan, a 120mm long live caterpillar from Australia and two dead birds picked up on a beach in Chile.

“All these goods could harbour diseases or insects that threaten our country and people’s livelihoods like Foot and Mouth and Fruit Fly,” he said “We’ve even had a live rat jump out of a parcel one day.”

“We’re a dedicated team at the mail centre, who at times take a lot of abuse from angry importers who are annoyed at having to pay for treatments or are told they can't have certain mail items.

“Occasionally, someone writes to us saying how shocked and embarrassed they were to be sent something that could harm New Zealand and they have told their friends so. “It’s great to get this type of feedback, but more and more New Zealanders need to be aware of the dangers and tell their friends and families overseas of the harmful consequences their actions could bring,” he said.


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