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每日跟讀#493: African swine fever virus can survive in vacuum-packed pork products

防非洲豬瘟旅客私帶肉品 誤以為真空包裝就沒事

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每日跟讀#493: African swine fever virus can survive in vacuum-packed pork products

As African swine fever (ASF) rages in China, neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which have not yet been affected by the disease, are on high alert and doing everything in their power to prevent its spread. However, from time to time passengers have been caught attempting to bring meat products into the country, often claiming that they were not aware of the new regulations or that they thought vacuum-packed meat products were allowed, since they are not raw meat nor perishable. In an interview last Monday, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine attempted to explode such myths and the bureau hopes that by doing so people will more clearly understand the situation and not try to push their luck.


Statistics show that the passengers who have been fined are nationals from Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Vietnamese and Chinese spouses traveling on Republic of China (Taiwan) passports. They have been caught bringing in poultry and meat products from areas affected by animal epidemics such as ASF, foot-and-month disease and bird flu.


Despite the bureau’s efforts to actively promote and raise awareness of ASF at the airports’ departure and arrival areas, as well as showing videos on board to advise passengers not to bring in meat products, most passengers who were fined still said that they were “not aware of the regulations.” Some even thought that as long as it was not perishable food or raw meat, it was OK to bring in processed and vacuum-packed meat products.


Preserved pork and sausages are meat products often imported illegally by passengers. The bureau’s section chief Peng Ming-hsing points out: “In the past, once we caught passengers carrying in such items, we usually advised them and discarded the items without actually fining the passengers, which might have given the impression that these items were allowed to be imported.”


On passengers’ misconceptions, Peng stresses that: “Only canned food can be brought into the country. Others products are not allowed.” Canned food also includes “soft can packaging,” such as prepared food pouches within a pot of instant noodles. However, beef canned food for pets is not allowed to brought into the country.


Peng pointed out that canned foods are prepared by using a high-temperature and high-pressure sterilization process, so they can be stored at room temperature without need for refrigeration or freezing, and as a result there will be no problem that they might be carrying diseases viruses or germs. Vacuum packaging only extracts air and so must be refrigerated or frozen, which means that the ASF virus can still survive — and this is why vacuum-packed foods are disallowed.


In addition, in Taiwan there are many spouses from China and Southeast Asia — they may miss the cuisine of their country of origin and so often try to find ways to import meat products into Taiwan. Peng also stressed that this is now completely banned.

(Translated by Lin Lee-kai, Taipei Times)


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