The catastrophic effects of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak were spelt out when an Auckland man was sentenced for illegally importing pork products from Thailand in Auckland District Court this month (13 November).
Chaiwat Kangsathien, 40, of Mt Eden, was sentenced to 10 months home detention for attempting to possess unauthorised goods, namely uncooked pork sausages, under the Biosecurity Act.
He had earlier pleaded guilty. The sentence is subject to Mr Kangsathien's home address being approved by the Department of Corrections.
Importer and retailer NP Trading Ltd also faced Biosecurity Act charges and was fined $75,000.
Ministry for Primary Industries Director Diagnostic Investigative Centres and Response, Veronica Herrera, said importing uncooked pork sausages from Thailand could introduce foot–and-mouth disease to New Zealand.
"Foot-and-mouth disease is present in Thailand, the virus can live for more than 50 days in sausages, and they were destined to be sold widely through a retail outlet in Auckland.
"Two-thirds of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks around the world have been caused by infected meat products. Illegally imported meat is a very real risk because it can end up in food waste that is not treated appropriately and then fed to susceptible animals, such as pigs, infecting them with the virus."
Dr Herrera said we are fortunate in New Zealand that we have a robust biosecurity system able to make interceptions like this.
She said New Zealand has never had a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, but recent studies show that if we did, the results would be catastrophic.
"Exports of meat and dairy products would stop overnight and in some cases, would not resume until 3 to 6 months after the slaughter of the last infected animal. MPI research has shown that it could see up to 50,000 jobs lost, and the impacts would be felt by all New Zealanders.
"It is estimated that it would cost the country $15 billion to $17 billion over 4 years, which is enough to tip the country into recession.
"There would be huge disruptions to our primary industries, unemployment would soar, and New Zealand's reputation as a trading nation would be damaged."
The uncooked pork sausages were part of a consignment of 20 cartons labelled as "snack" food, and was picked up in a biosecurity check as requiring more information before it could be released.
When asked for more details about the imported product, Mr Kansathien said it was fish sausages. Further checks revealed there were 10 cartons of fish sausages and the other 10 cartons contained a total of 1200 uncooked pork sausages.
Mr Kansathien told MPI investigators he had the boxes labelled as "snack" in an attempt to bypass New Zealand's border controls.
It's important to note that foot-and-mouth disease is not a human health issue and only affects cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs, sheep, cattle, deer, alpacas and llamas.