Media statement: White spot syndrome virus testing at retail outlets

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The department is aware of research conducted by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) on white spot testing at retail outlets.

USC researchers have not made their methodology or data available to the department and the department would welcome detailed information and test data from USC researchers.

Highly processed uncooked prawn products

Highly processed prawn products (such as dim sum and spring rolls) are considered unlikely to be diverted to bait or aquaculture feed. 

For that reason, the prawn risk analysis conducted by the department determined these products are not required to be tested for WSSV at the border. As a result, highly processed prawn products collected from retail outlets may test positive for white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) or virus fragments but are considered to be unlikely to cause a WSSV outbreak.

The review of all prawn import conditions currently being undertaken by the department will examine whether there has been any change to the risks presented by these imports.

Cooked prawns

Cooking significantly reduces WSSV levels and may completely inactivate the virus. Cooking also reduces the likelihood that prawns will be diverted to bait or aquaculture feed. 

Cooked prawns can have fragments of viral DNA which are detected with modern testing methods but are unlikely to be infectious.

Uncooked prawns

The department considers uncooked prawns, marinated prawns, and Australian prawns processed overseas to present the highest risk of diversion to bait and aquaculture feed. 

To appropriately manage the biosecurity risks of these products, enhanced import conditions were implemented​ on 6 July 2017.

From this date, all uncooked prawns, marinated prawns and Australian prawns processed overseas through a non-approved supply chain are required to be tested pre-export and on-arrival for white spot syndrome virus and yellow head virus.

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