Imported foods could have ‘devastating’ impact on livestock industry
Published:  06 June, 2017

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer has warned of the damaging implications importing foods can have on the livestock industry. 

Robert Huey said that bringing products originally deriving from animals or plants from countries where infections are present could bring serious diseases of unwanted pests to the country.

“Diseases such as foot-and-mouth cause serious economic impacts and can be brought into Northern Ireland via infected animal products (particularly those containing meat or milk),” warned Huey.

“Fruit and vegetables may also carry pests that can infect plants. Such diseases and pests can have a devastating effect on livestock, crops or the environment. Animal-related products may also risk human health from diseases, residues or contaminants – for example, from fish, honey or untreated animal hides.”

The chief officer said diseases such as foot-and-mouth would threaten animal health status, and could even put trade and jobs at risk.

“Holidaymakers need to be aware that there are rules on what they can and cannot bring back with them from their trip,” he added. “For example, it is illegal to bring meat or dairy products from outside the EU into Northern Ireland. People travelling through local ports or airports should therefore check the rules on food and plant imports before they leave home.”

In an effort to keep illegal imports of animals, animal products and plant products at bay, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs keeps an inspection presence at all of Northern Ireland’s main ports and airports.

“We wish to raise awareness of the importance of biosecurity to protect our industry and also avoid the potential for enforcement actions,” concluded Huey. “However, it is important to note that illegal products will be seized and destroyed and anyone caught carrying prohibited items risks prosecution and a fine.”