The Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer has warned holidaymakers of the risks of importing animal disease from their holiday destinations.
Dr Perpetua McNamee, from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, warned that bringing back products derived from animals or plants from countries where infections are present could bring serious diseases or unwanted pests to Northern Ireland.
Diseases such as foot-and-mouth cause serious economic impacts and can be brought into Northern Ireland via infected animal products (particularly those containing meat or milk). Fruit and vegetables may also carry pests that can infect plants. Such diseases and pests can have a devastating effect on livestock, crops or the environment. Animal-related products may also risk human health from diseases, residues or contaminants (for example, from fish, honey or untreated animal hides).
Dr McNamee said: “Diseases such as foot-and-mouth or bird flu would threaten our animal health status. Should a major disease like this enter Northern Ireland, trade and jobs will be at risk. Holidaymakers need to be aware that there are rules on what they can and cannot bring back with them from their trip. For example, it is illegal to bring meat or dairy products from outside the EU into Northern Ireland.
“People travelling through local ports or airports should therefore check the rules on food and plant imports before they leave home.”
Dr McNamee added: “We wish to raise awareness of the importance of biosecurity to protect our industry and also avoid the potential for enforcement actions. However it is important to note that illegal products will be seized and destroyed, and anyone caught carrying prohibited items risks prosecution and a fine.”
To keep illegal imports of animals, animal products and plant products, including fish, meat and vegetables out, DAERA maintains an inspection presence at all of Northern Ireland’s main ports and airports.
For detailed information on what can and cannot be brought into Northern Ireland, call the DAERA Portal Inspection Office on: 028 9442 6822 or visit the NI Direct website at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/bringing-food-and-plants-northern-ireland