Getting to the core of airport biosecurity

Australia’s biosecurity officers seized more than 273,000 items of biosecurity concern at Australia’s international airports in 2016, up by more than 6 per cent from 2015.

Head of biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said the increase in seizures from 256,000 in 2015 was a concern for biosecurity officers.

“With the help of the travelling public we can reverse this emerging trend,” Ms O’Connell said.

“In 2016 biosecurity officers screened 4.1 million international passengers—it’s a big job. Travellers need to play their part in protecting our nation.

“The onus is on people to do the right thing—think about what is being packed and if unsure check, fill out the Incoming Passenger Cards correctly, declare everything honestly and leave plane food on the plane.

“Australia is lucky to be free from many pests and diseases, but increased overseas travel means an increased risk of new pests and diseases entering Australia that could seriously impact our unique environment, agricultural industries and our plant, animal and human health status.”

The items seized at the border in 2016 included:

  • 41,957kg of meat, an increase of 13 per cent since 2015, and the most common item seized at airports in 2016
  • 11,579kg of legumes, an increase of 12 per cent since 2015.
  • 7,375kg seeds, an increase of 28 per cent since 2015.
  • 23,296 items of pome fruit (mainly apples), an increase of 8 per cent since 2015.

“If passengers bring in an apple, even if it was given to them on an international flight, it could carry fruit fly, which could seriously damage our $556 million apple industry,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Fruit fly could reduce market access and profits for our farmers and increase their production costs.

“Pork products in particular can carry Foot-and-Mouth Disease which, should it become established in the country, has been estimated to cost Australia around $50 billion over a decade.

“These small acts could lead to real impacts for our farmers and consumers, and people need to think about the impacts their items could have before they pack them.

“Biosecurity officers actively target deliberate concealment and non-compliance with Australia’s quarantine laws using the best science, analysis and intelligence. Those breaking the law are punished accordingly.”

For more information on what can and can’t be brought to Australia visit

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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