African swine fever (ASF) is a contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs. Since 2007, the disease has spread throughout the world. Affected countries in our region include Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea. There is no registered vaccine for ASF and the disease kills about 80% of the pigs it infects.
ASF is an Emergency Animal Disease (EAD).
ASF has never occurred in Australia. However its changing distribution means it is a significant biosecurity threat to our country. An outbreak would be devastating for our pig industry and also damage our trade and the economy.
The latest information on the global ASF situation can be accessed via the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).
What we’re doing
Jerky, biltong and other smallgoods containing pork are not permitted into Australia. They can’t be brought in by international passengers or sent through the mail. They pose a high biosecurity risk and could carry ASF virus.
There are strict conditions for commercial imports of pork and pork products for human consumption. These products must be:
- retorted (e.g. canned)
- cured under very specific conditions to inactivate viruses, or
- be sourced from disease-free countries approved by the department.
There are also strict import conditions for:
- porcine origin pet treats and food, such as rawhide chews and pig ears
- laboratory materials, such as animal fluids, tissues and culture media.
In most cases, you will need to apply for an import permit before importing them into Australia. See BICON to find out more.
We have improved our communication to remind travellers to declare pork products. When arriving in Australia, travellers must declare all risk products on their Incoming Passenger Card.
We have increased screening for pork products at international airports and mail centres, which has resulted in increased interception. In 2021-22, the detection of pork products carried by international travellers increased by 39%. Mail detection rates over the same period increased by 300%.
We have adopted a stronger enforcement approach to pork and other meat products. The penalties we issue reflect the seriousness of the breach.
We are targeting passengers who:
- provide false or misleading information
- produce false or misleading documents (such as an Incoming Passenger Card).
From 1 January 2021, travellers who knowingly fail to declare high-risk goods (such as uncanned meat) or provide false or misleading information, can receive an infringement of up to $5,500. They may also be referred for civil penalty proceedings or criminal prosecution.
Under recent changes to Australian migration law, international passengers who breach the Biosecurity Act 2015 by failing to declare high-risk biosecurity items could also have their visa cancelled. These include international student and temporary work visas. If your visa is cancelled, you will be refused entry to Australia. You cannot apply for another visa for three years.
With the spread of ASF, a sampling and testing program has been in force since 2018. This helps us to monitor the risk of ASF entering Australia through food products. Using genetic testing, samples are tested for ASF and other viruses like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
In 2022, we tested 839 pork products intercepted at international airports and mail centres. 9.5% of samples tested positive for ASF viral fragments and 0.36% tested positive for FMD viral fragments. The positive results were for viral fragments only. Australia remains free of both ASF and FMD.
The test results reinforce the importance of Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements.
Australia has plans in place to respond to exotic pest or disease detections. The Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) outlines the roles of government and industry in a response to an EAD incident in Australia.
Between 2019 and 2021 we ran 4 preparedness exercises to test the plans against an ASF incursion. The exercises included a cost-benefit analysis, discussion on movement restrictions and the effects on industry.
The AUSVETPLAN ASF response strategy was reviewed and updated in 2022. We continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their roles during an ASF incursion.
We have partnered with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, industry and the Centre of Excellence in Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) to develop an ASF epidemiological model. The model predicts how ASF could spread in Australia. It includes the role of feral pigs and different control measures.
Peak industry bodies have provided ASF-specific advice to support effective on-farm biosecurity practices.
State and territory governments also enforce strict laws prohibiting swill feeding.
We follow the spread of ASF closely, monitoring updates from the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This work enables us to detect and respond to emerging threats.
In conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we work with neighbouring countries to provide training, build capacity and support disease surveillance. This provides an early warning system for ASF and other significant diseases in our region and helps to reduce the impact and spread. We are currently assisting the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Papua New Guinea’s National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority. Our support contributes to their ASF response and recovery arrangements. It also assists in their preparedness for other animal diseases.
The Minister for Agriculture convened a roundtable meeting in September 2019.
Stakeholders, including representatives from key industry bodies attended. They discussed how we can work together to prevent, prepare and respond to the threat of ASF and other exotic diseases.
From 2019 to 2022, we invested over $500,000 to improve EAD capability at domestic abattoirs.
This funding enabled:
- EAD identification and response training
- ongoing audits of staff training
- a response plan and training manuals for each site.
These resources will provide ongoing support for processing plants.
We continue to improve market access for our agricultural industries. As part of our contingency planning, strategies will safeguard trade if ASF is detected in Australia or our trading partners.
Border interception statistics
Between 5 November 2018 and 31 December 2022, we intercepted 65 tonnes of pork products from air travellers entering Australia – an average of over 16 tonnes per year. This included:
- 28.3 tonnes at Sydney Airport
- 17.2 tonnes at Melbourne Airport
- 10.7 tonnes at Brisbane Airport
- 6.4 tonnes at Perth Airport
- 2.5 tonnes at Adelaide Airport
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic reducing numbers of incoming air travellers, 11.6 tonnes of meat products were still intercepted during the 2021-22 financial year.
Stop ASF coming to Australia
People visiting or returning to Australia must meet biosecurity requirements.
Before you travel, check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.
You must declare all food and animal products, and other risk items on your Incoming Passenger Card. This includes footwear, clothes and equipment that has been in contact with animals or worn in a rural area. If you do not declare, you could receive an infringement notice or face criminal prosecution.
Don’t bring food with you.
Make sure your items are clean before you pack your bags.
Exotic pests and diseases may not be something you think about when buying goods online. You need to consider where your goods are coming from. The goods must meet our biosecurity conditions when they arrive at Australia’s international mail facility.
Before you make your purchase, check what can and can’t be mailed to Australia.
Many items may seem harmless. There are animal diseases that can survive for long periods in products. This makes it possible for diseases to spread to new areas. Be sure to tell overseas family or friends sending goods to Australia to check before sending.
It doesn’t matter if you are a large-scale pig producer or have a pet pig in your backyard. You need to keep your animals healthy and give them good food that is safe.
You must not feed pigs:
- any other mammalian food containing meat, or
- food which has been in contact with meat.
This is known as swill feeding. It is illegal in Australia because it can introduce serious animal diseases like ASF. See what you feed your pigs on the Farm Biosecurity website.
The National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Pork Production shows how pig farmers can help reduce the risk of disease:
- entering a property
- spreading through livestock
- being passed to surrounding livestock operations.
Contact Australian Pork Limited, on 1800 789 099 to find out more.
Consider your biosecurity arrangements. What steps are you taking to stop visitors and workers from spreading the disease?
Follow accepted good biosecurity practices, including:
- entry controls and protocols
- hygiene requirements
- visitor logs
Review the processes of your stock transport. Make sure your staff are trained and understand your biosecurity arrangements.
If you don’t have these measures in place visit Farm Biosecurity or contact your peak industry body.
If you see signs of disease consistent with ASF in domestic or feral pigs:
- contact your veterinarian
- phone the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately.
The hotline will put you in touch with your state or territory animal health authority. You must report suspected cases of ASF to animal health authorities.
Early detection and laboratory confirmation is critical for a rapid and effective response. You have an important role to play during an incursion of an animal disease.
Report unusual cases of disease to:
- state or territory government veterinarians directly, or
- the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately.
- African Swine Fever
- African Swine Fever (Emergency Animal Disease Bulletin No. 120)
- Information on the clinical signs of ASF
- African swine fever overview (Australian Pork)
- African Swine Fever (OIE World Organisation for Animal Health)
- Animal Health Australia (AHA) African Swine Fever
We prepare for animal disease incursions. We have robust national response arrangements in place.
We work with industry to prepare pest and disease response plans. We train our people and run regular exercises to make sure these arrangements are continually reviewed and improved.
Find out about our preparedness and response arrangements:
In 2017 we funded a project to engage with and increase our knowledge about pig owners from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) in Australia. NESB community groups in the study location selected were Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. This was based on their traditional pig-rearing practices and pork consumption. These pig owners may be more likely to swill feed due to traditional cultural pig rearing practices.