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Pigs fly in, MAF doesn't notice

31 July 2006

Pigs fly in, MAF doesn't notice

The decision not to prosecute those responsible for importing six tonnes of raw Korean pork into Auckland makes a mockery of our bio-security laws, Green Party Bio-Security Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

"It seems that our border control sleuths are more effective at publicity stunts such as prosecuting Hollywood actress Hilary Swank for her apple than at guarding against far more serious threats to our bio-security. Korea has spasmodically suffered from foot and mouth disease, which could devastate New Zealand's agricultural exports.

"Serious pork diseases, such as PRRS - or Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome - are also endemic in Korea. New Zealanders can only wonder why no prosecutions have resulted after such a lucky escape from a serious risk of infection," Mrs Turei says.

"Why did the Ministry of Agriculture not intercept this shipment before it even crossed our borders - and why was it only picked up afterwards, in the course of a routine surveillance of food distributors and retailers, after the shipment entered the country.

"Food imports from Korea have become a flashpoint for New Zealanders in recent months, in the wake of the Korean shellfish poisoning of rugby fans at Eden Park. Consumers should be able to know the source of the food they eat. Yet currently, consumers have no right to the kind of country-of-origin labelling that would enable them to know if the shellfish, pork or any other food came from overseas, rather than from a local source.

"At a time when 40 percent of the pork consumed here is imported from overseas, the consumer has the right to know if the pork they're eating came from Korea, or from a farm down the road..

"For now though, the public deserves to be told why these pork importers have escaped prosecution. We need to know if the decision not to prosecute has anything to do with the Ministry of Agriculture's own procedural failings.

"After all, this wasn't a stray bug or rodent sneaking into the country. If MAF can't tell whether a six tonne shipment of pork landing on its doorstep is in breach of the rules, then this country's bio-security is in very deep trouble. "

ENDS

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