Operation targeting dangerous imported food products concludes

The last prosecution resulting from Operation Hayride was finalised recently with Mr Don (Mun Joo) Cho receiving 30 months imprisonment wholly suspended and fines totalling $28,000 for knowingly importing high-risk meat products from South Korea.

Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said Operation Hayride targeted prohibited food items unlawfully imported from South Korea during a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, resulting in a total of 12 prosecutions.

“Numerous defendants received custodial sentences ranging from three years and three months in jail, to a nine month suspended sentence,” Ms O’Connell said.

“The department focussed efforts on recovering prohibited food items through the operation, which involved targeted intelligence on 21 importers, six suppliers and the execution of 16 search warrants.

“We also inspected over 320 retail premises around Australia between January and April 2011, seizing an estimated 132 tonnes of undeclared, potentially prohibited food goods including not shelf stable meat in dumplings, hot dogs, ham steaks, schnitzels; meat components in noodles; milk and ice cream products.

“There was a total of $140,000 in fines for body corporate entities, two Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP) had their approvals revoked and a further two QAP approvals were refused renewals.

“Illegally imported meat and animal products can pose a serious risk to our agricultural industries, economy, environment and human health.

“Meat-based goods from South Korea were banned from importation after an outbreak of FMD and avian influenza in 2010.

“An FMD outbreak in Australia would cost the economy $52 billion over the course of 10 years, according to research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

“The most probable cause of FMD outbreaks across the world are through illegally imported meat or meat products being fed to pigs, which is why we take cases of non-compliant food importations so seriously.

“It’s critical that we work in partnership with industry to protect Australia from plant and animals pests and diseases such as FMD—but when parties deliberately bring risk-items that put our biosecurity status at risk we will always use the full force of the law to keep Australia free from exotic pests and diseases.

“I strongly urge importers and members of the public to follow our biosecurity requirements because, as this operation demonstrates, we take our job seriously and are on the lookout for offenders.

“Australia’s biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, both business and individuals.”

The department has run 13 similar targeted campaigns since Hayride to monitor and ensure ongoing compliance.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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