Keeping foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease out of New Zealand
Reducing FMD risk at the border
Foot-and-mouth disease could get into New Zealand on contaminated:
- animal products such as meat and milk
- clothing and shoes
To reduce these risks, New Zealand has some of the world's toughest biosecurity measures against FMD.
Imported goods must meet biosecurity requirements
Goods that could present a biosecurity risk must meet strict requirements when they are being imported into New Zealand to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases like FMD. The rules are set out in the relevant import health standard for the imported goods.
Travellers must declare risk goods or activities
Travellers to New Zealand must declare all goods, equipment, and food that could carry unwanted pests or diseases into New Zealand. Travellers must also declare when they have been in contact with livestock. MPI checks any passengers and baggage identified as being at high risk of carrying FMD.
We use public education to encourage travellers to declare or dispose of risk goods before they cross the border. People who forget to declare items or who make false declarations are fined or can be imprisoned.
MPI uses risk assessment, visual inspections, X-ray screening, and detector dogs to prevent risk goods from being carried into New Zealand by travellers or arriving by mail.
All shipping containers and imported goods are assessed for biosecurity risk. Containers and goods may need inspection or treatment at transitional facilities before they can be cleared for entry into New Zealand. Transitional facilities are operated by MPI-trained and certified staff.
Domestic laws protect animals from disease
Our laws help to protect the health and welfare of animals and prevent animals being fed food that could spread diseases such as FMD.
For example, it's illegal to feed pigs any untreated meat or food waste that contains or might have contacted raw meat.
On-farm biosecurity protects against FMD
Farmers can help prevent an outbreak of FMD by:
- purchasing stock from reputable suppliers
- keeping overseas visitors away from stock for a week after their last contact with animals or infected places overseas
- developing a simple on-farm biosecurity plan outlining what to do in an outbreak.
Find out more:
- On-farm biosecurity guide – Beef + Lamb New Zealand website
- On-farm biosecurity guidance for pig farmers – NZ Pork website
- Information for farmers on FMD
Vaccines are an ineffective prevention
There are 7 types (strains) of FMD virus, each with many sub-types. Protection against each sub-type requires a different vaccine and only lasts for a short time (months rather than years). To prevent an outbreak, all susceptible animals in a country would need 6-monthly to yearly vaccinations for each sub-type, making this an inefficient and expensive option.
Vaccines for prevention affect trade
Some countries (such as in South America) use vaccines for protection against FMD strains in part of a country or in the whole country. They are regarded as FMD free if they have not had the disease for a long time. These countries are described as 'FMD free with vaccination'.
Because we don't have FMD in or near New Zealand, we don't need to use vaccines to prevent an outbreak. It's more cost-effective to focus on keeping FMD out of the country. New Zealand is internationally recognised as 'FMD free without vaccination' – which is one of the reasons why our products usually enjoy a premium in international trade.
Vaccines to control an FMD outbreak
If New Zealand had an FMD outbreak, vaccines could be used to control spread of the disease. Vaccines help manage an FMD outbreak by reducing how much and how fast the virus spreads.
Vaccines can help slow the spread of disease when given to healthy animals that either live near infected animals or are at risk of exposure to the virus.
Limitations of vaccines
Although vaccines can help manage an FMD outbreak, they have their limitations. They take time to manufacture and distribute, and they are expensive for industry and government.
Vaccines aren't an alternative to slaughtering animals. They don't work straight away, and vaccinated animals can still spread the virus. For this reason, all susceptible animals on properties with FMD would still need to be humanely slaughtered to eradicate the disease from New Zealand – even if they've been vaccinated.
There are also stricter trade requirements if FMD vaccines are used. If vaccinated animals aren't slaughtered, it takes longer to be officially regarded as FMD free again for international trade.
Who to contact
If you have questions about FMD, email firstname.lastname@example.org