21 Mar 2013

MPI says education key to disease prevention

4:40 pm on 21 March 2013

The Ministry for Primary Industries says it will be relying on education and co-operation to counter any risk of the pig disease PRRS spreading through back yard piggeries.

The Ministry is to allow imports of selected raw pork products after a Court of Appeal decision dismissed a legal challenge by the pork industry to block their importation.

The court ruled that a new import health standard could be introduced to allow uncooked pork to be brought in to the country from countries which have the pig disease Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome or PRRS. They include the European Union, Canada, US and Mexico.

The pig industry believes PRRS could become established here through non-commercial or back yard piggeries feeding their animals infected pork scraps in waste food from restaurants, despite regulations in place prohibiting this from happening.

An internationally renowned epidemiologist, Roger Morris, has warned that if uncooked porkmeat is let in, an outbreak of PRRS is highly likely within three years.

MPI director general Wayne McNee says the risk is very small - with the odds at 1200 to one - and she ays the imports will be confined to trimmed cuts that are free from lymphatic tissue and are chilled, which also reduces the potency of any infection.

He says the Ministry will be working with New Zealand Pork to make sure small-time pig owners respect the restrictions on feeding pork scraps.

New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter says he is not reassured by that but says his organisation will work with MPI to mitigate this area.

Federated Farmers has also voiced reservations about the decision saying there is too much scientific uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of an outbreak.

Federated Farmers' food production spokesperson William Rolleston says MPI is relying on the rules specifying what can be fed to pigs being followed - and he says there's no guarantee they will be.

Dr Rolleston says MPI and scientists like Professor Morris need to sit down and agree what the risks are.

PRRS causes severe respiratory illnesses in young pigs and reproductive problems in breeding stock.