Illegal meat discovery at Dover highlights Swine fever risk

The shocking discovery of illegal meat in lorries at Dover port has intensified concerns about the threat of an outbreak of deadly African swine fever (ASF) breaching the UK’s shores.

Officials from Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) inspected 22 lorries originating from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland over a 24-hour period earlier this month.

They found illegal meat imports in 21 of the vehicles entering the UK, including 2.5t of illegal pork products.

See also: Pig industry aghast at government delays on border controls

The haul included raw animal products loosely stored in carrier bags and tissue without temperature control, refrigeration or labelled identification. These items were not separated from ready-to-eat products, such as cheese, crisps and cake.

Some illegal raw meat products were discovered in holdalls, taped-up second-hand cardboard boxes and sealed cool boxes. They were destined to be sold at markets and independent stores in Britain.

Pork in wheelie bin

In one case, unlabelled, loosely wrapped pork was found in the bottom of a taped-up wheelie bin filled with other goods intended for free circulation within the UK.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency says the most likely way the ASF virus could be introduced to Great Britain is by a member of the public bringing pork or pork products back from an ASF-affected country.

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, revealed the figures in a debate at Westminster Hall on Tuesday 18 October.

She suggested the evidence from Dover showed the risk of an animal health and biosecurity breach at UK borders had got worse in the past year.

“The operational report contains some 20 pages of disgusting images from this very small operation,” she said. “We need to remember that it’s not 22 vehicles a day that enter the UK at Dover – but it’s up to 10,000 vehicle movements across the Channel each day.

“It’s clear that the risk of maggoty meat, meat of unknown origin – often horse or other illegal meat – rotting meat due to the lack of temperature controls, as well as fresh blood dripping onto other products is a real concern.”

Government warned

A spokesman for the DPHA, which is provided by Dover district council, said it had written to the government to raise a number of urgent issues, including the risk to farmers and consumers of ASF entering the UK.

In the letter, the authority called for the prompt mobilisation of “the Dover Border Control Post to ensure we can protect biosecurity and disrupt food fraud and criminality”.

Lizzie Wilson, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said the discovery at Dover highlighted the vital need to check lorries at the border for consignments of illegal meat.