Provisional import health standards for pig meat and pig meat products released

07 April 2009

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) today issued provisional Import Heath Standards (IHSs) for pig meat, pig meat products and by-products from Canada, the EU, Mexico and the USA.

The four provisional IHSs include risk management measures based on a risk analysis on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus in pig meat. PRRS is a viral disease of pigs found in many pig-producing countries, but which is not found in New Zealand or Australia. The 2006 risk analysis concluded that the risk of PRRS in imported meat is non-negligible, and the following measures were recommended to manage the identified risk:

  • Pig meat must be either from a country free from PRRS;
  • or treated prior to import by approved cooking or pH change;
  • or in the form of consumer-ready cuts.

The addition of consumer-ready cuts of fresh meat was added as a risk mitigation option in the draft IHSs that were issued for public consultation in November 2007.

A full assessment of all submissions to the draft IHSs was made at the completion of the public consultation period. As a result, the provisional IHSs have been modified as follows:

  • Curing – the lower end of the pH treatment range has been changed from 5 or lower to 6 or lower. Research shows that infectivity is rapidly lost at pH 6 or lower.
  • The definition of cuts has been revised so it is internationally verifiable and certifiable and limited to consumer-ready cuts.
  • Consumer-ready cuts for direct retail sale must have all major lymph nodes removed, and be sold in packages that cannot exceed 3kg.

"Having considered the public submissions, all relevant science and a wide range of expert opinion, MAF considers the PRRS risk associated with consumer-ready pork imports to be effectively managed by the measures proposed in the IHSs," said Barry O’Neil, Deputy Director General, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand.

The provisional Import Heath Standards (IHSs) for pig meat, pig meat products and by-products from Canada, the EU, Mexico and the USA can be found at: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/regs/imports/ihs/provisional

The Import Risk Analysis and review of submissions, which also considers all relevant scientific information published since 2006, are available at: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/files/regs/imports/risk/prrs-risk-analysis.pdf, and http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/files/biosec/consult/prrs-ra-subs.pdf

Until 2001 pig meat was imported into New Zealand without sanitary measures for PRRS virus. A study in 1999 provided experimental evidence that it was possible to transmit the virus to healthy pigs by feeding them fresh meat taken from infected pigs. Subsequently, MAF introduced provisional measures requiring that all pig meat imported from countries with PRRS be either cooked or cured to certain specifications until a full risk analysis could be completed.

The primary means by which PRRS could enter New Zealand - via the import of live pigs or pig semen - is already strictly controlled. The 2006 risk analysis looked at the risks associated with PRRS in pig meat. MAF considers the likelihood of the PRRS virus entering New Zealand via pig meat and infecting pigs is very low, and the measures being proposed will effectively manage the risks.

The four draft IHSs stipulate that consumer-ready cuts are the only form of pork that can be imported from countries with PRRS without further treatment. These cuts would weigh less than 3kg, be packaged for direct retail sale and have all major lymph nodes removed.

Media contact:

Helen Keyes, MAFBNZ Communications Manager
04 894 0161 or 029 894 0161
Helen.keyes@maf.govt.nz

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