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Biosecurity measures in place for chicken imports

28 February 2005

Biosecurity measures in place for chicken imports

Strict biosecurity measures are in place for any avian-related imports from Asia, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

In response to written Parliamentary questions, Mr Sutton confirmed that products from chickens had been imported from South East Asian countries that are or have been affected by avian flu during the past four years.

Imports of chicken are not recorded separately from other types of meat. Only a 'free text' item description allows chicken to be distinguished from other meat types. In some records, the item description does not contain the type of meat seized / cleared.

However, Mr Sutton said those imports did not mean that the health of New Zealanders or poultry here was at risk.

He said that all chicken products imported into New Zealand are processed products. That meant that all meat products were "shelf stable" to the equivalent of a canned good and all feathers were hot washed and dried. Eggs were not imported from Asia, and the imported products containing eggs were processed before importation.

This meant that the avian flu virus, even if it had been present in the poultry from which the imported products came, would have been killed before it arrived in New Zealand.

Mr Sutton said the import health standard for cooked meat products from any country gave clearance provided that the products were commercially packed, meat was cooked, and bone-in products were certified to have been subjected to a thermal treatment of Fo3 or greater in the bone. (Fo3 is a processing standard equating to 121 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes).

The products must also be sealed within cans, glass, foil or retort pouches, within their original packaging on arrival, and shelf-stable.

Meat stock powders, stock cubes, meat ingredients in dry soup mixes, dry camping food mixes, instant noodle flavourings, and similar products from any country may be given clearance provided that they are commercially packaged, intact within original packaging on arrival, and shelf-stable. Any meat ingredient in the product must have been cooked prior to dehydrating or any other process i.e. the products only require rehydration and reheating prior to consumption. Products requiring further cooking before consumption may not be imported under this clause.

Feathers commercially manufactured into articles such as shuttlecocks, dyed feather boas, feathers in hats or fishing flies may be given clearance. Commercially washed loose feathers may be given clearance, as well as private or commercial importations of quilts, duvets, pillows and sleeping bags.

Mr Sutton said the Government took its biosecurity responsibilities extremely seriously.

"The import health standards are written after consultation and study of the risks. They are rigorous documents based on honest science."

Mr Sutton said New Zealanders could have confidence in the biosecurity system. They were not being put at risk by any avian-related imports.


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