African swine fever (ASF) is a contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs. It has established itself in Asia and parts of Europe and continues to spread. ASF has no vaccine and kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects.
It has been reported in:
- Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Germany in Europe
- China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, India and Malaysia in Asia.
ASF has never occurred in Australia. Its changing distribution means it’s a significant biosecurity threat to our country. An outbreak would be devastating for our pig production and health. It would 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’s website.
What we’re doing
To protect Australia from ASF, we’re strengthening our biosecurity measures.
Strengthened biosecurity measures for permitted and unpermitted products
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.
Increased border activities
We have increased our interventions at Australia’s border. This includes heightened screening for pork products at airports and mail centres. We have placed ASF signage at international airports to ensure passengers declare pork items.
We are contacting airlines who operate flights from ASF countries to request their assistance in passing on information to passengers about declaring risk items, including pork products.
Stronger penalties for non-compliance
We have adopted a stronger enforcement approach to biosecurity infringements and will be focusing on pork and other meat products. The penalties we issue to passengers 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).
The majority of travellers do the right thing and accurately declare what they have brought into the country. From 1 January 2021, travellers who knowingly fail to declare high-risk goods (such as uncanned meat) or otherwise provide false or misleading information can receive an infringement notice with a penalty amount of up to $2664. 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. From 1 January 2021, there are 18 subclasses of visa that may be cancelled under the biosecurity-related visa cancellation ground, including international student and temporary work visas. If the person’s visa is cancelled, they are refused entry to Australia and cannot generally apply for another visa for three years.
Testing pork products seized at international airports and mail centres
With the spread of ASF into new countries, a sampling and testing program for ASF in goods surrendered or seized from passengers, or found in mail parcels, was introduced in late 2018. This will assist to monitor the risk of ASF entering Australia through food products. Using genetic testing technology, samples can be readily tested for evidence of ASF and other viruses like FMD.
The CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) (now the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, ACDP) tested samples of pork products taken from airline passengers and from mail centres for ASF virus in late 2018, early 2019 and again in September 2019. In the first 2 periods the samples were collected in Melbourne and Sydney and in the latter period from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.
In late 2018, 6 out of 152 samples contained ASF virus fragments. For the second period, in early February 2019, 40 out of 283 samples contained ASF virus fragments and 2 products tested positive for FMD virus fragments. In September 2019, 202 out of 418 samples tested positive for ASF virus fragments and 3 products tested positive for FMD virus fragments.
The test results reinforce the importance complying with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements.
Improving our preparedness
Australia has robust contingency plans in place to respond to exotic pest or disease detections. We ran an exercise in late 2019 to test those plans against a potential ASF incursion. This will make sure they are fit for purpose and give us the best chance of eradication.
We have continued to work with Australian state and territory governments and industry to ensure all parties understand the response arrangements in the event of an ASF incursion. These arrangements have been tested through more simulation exercises during 2020-2021, to identify any areas of weakness in our current response arrangements and address them. Topics covered include a cost-benefit analysis of responding to an incursion of ASF, and the effects of movement restrictions on daily industry activities.
The Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) has rolled out key molecular detection capability (qPCR) for ASF to all government animal health laboratories. The Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response (LEADDR) network has an ongoing role in maintaining and enhancing this capability through its network quality assurance programs. This will support all government laboratories to screen for and rapidly detect this devastating disease.
Peak industry bodies have provided ASF specific advice to support effective on-farm biosecurity practices. We are working with Australian Pork Limited to provide timely advice to Australian pig producers and industry stakeholders and identify any biosecurity gaps and ways to address them.
The state and territory governments also enforce strict laws for feeding of swill (food scraps) to pigs.
We follow the spread of ASF closely, monitoring updates from the OIE World Organisation for Animal Health and the ASF reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This work means we can detect and respond to emerging threats as quickly as possible.
In conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the department works with neighbouring countries providing training, capacity building and surveillance support. This provides an early warning system for the occurrence of ASF and other diseases in these countries, and helps to reduce the impact and spread of these diseases in the region. We are currently assisting the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Papua New Guinea’s National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority following detections of ASF in these countries.
Government and industry collaboration
The Minister for Agriculture convened a roundtable meeting on 6 September 2019. Representatives from key industry bodies attended. They discussed how government and industry can work together to prevent, prepare and respond to the threat of ASF and other exotic diseases.
We will use the outcomes to inform Australia’s ongoing work to manage the threat of ASF. See the summary document African swine fever roundtable to find out more.
| African swine fever roundtable—6 September 2019 PDF||7||174 KB|
|African swine fever roundtable—6 September 2019 DOCX||7||76 KB|
If you have difficulty accessing these files, please visit web accessibility.
Supporting trade and market access
We work closely with trading partners to support continued market access for our valuable agricultural industries. As part of our contingency planning, the Australian Government is investigating market access strategies to facilitate trade should ASF be detected in Australia.
Border interception statistics
Between 5 November 2018 and 31 October 2020, we intercepted over 43 tonnes of pork products on air travellers entering Australia. This includes:
- 17 tonnes at Sydney Airport
- 11 tonnes at Melbourne Airport
- 6.2 tonnes at Brisbane Airport
- 4.1 tonnes at Perth Airport
- 2 tonnes at Adelaide Airport
Stop ASF coming to Australia
Travelling to Australia
People visiting or returning to Australia need to pay attention to biosecurity requirements. This includes travelling from countries where ASF may be present. Before you travel, check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.
You must declare on your Incoming Passenger Card any food and animal products, and other risk items. This includes footwear, clothes and equipment that has been in contact with animals or worn in a rural area. If you do not declare, we could issue you with an infringement notice. You could face civil or criminal prosecutions, enforceable undertakings and court injunctions.
Don’t bring food with you. Make sure your items are clean before you pack your bags.
Watch our incoming passenger video: Don’t be sorry - just declare it.
(Available in English, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, Cantonese, French, Arabic and Korean).
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.
For pig and livestock owners
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’s prohibited in Australia because it can introduce serious animal diseases like ASF. See what you feed your pigs on the Farm Biosecurity website. This includes swill feeding laws that apply to your state or territory.
The National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Pork Production details 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 overseas visitors and workers returning from overseas 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 Watch 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.
Get to know the clinical signs of ASF. You should ensure that you and your pig-owning clients are aware of and comply with swill feeding legislation.
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 Watch 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)
- Watch the video: African swine fever kills pigs
- Animal Health Australia (AHA) African Swine Fever
- AHA Producer factsheets:
- Responding to ASF - what you need to know in the event of an ASF outbreak
- Control measures for African swine fever - control measures that may be used in an ASF response
Preparation and response arrangements
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:
- How we respond to outbreaks (outbreak.gov.au)
- AUSVETPLAN Disease Strategy Manuals (Animal Health Australia), the nationally agreed approach for responding to emergency animal diseases
- National Biosecurity Response Team (Animal Health Australia)
Non-English speaking background communities and swill feeding project
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.
Learn more about the project or read the full project report on the NSW DPI website.