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The National Pig Association has warned of the dangers of illegal meat entering Britain, such as African swine fever

All non-commercial meat imports to the UK should be made illegal, urged the National Pig Association amid reports that large quantities of meat are being seized at the Port of Dover.

The Dover Port Health Authority recently revealed over 57 tonnes of illegally imported pigmeat had been seized at the British border since September 2022.

This included 5.5 tonnes of illegal meat confiscated over the weekend before Christmas alone.

The NPA said it was “worrying” to see illegal imported meat entering the country as not only was it feeding the black market, it could also be infected with African swine fever.

Current rules make it illegal for travellers to bring pork products weighing over 2kg into the country from the EU unless produced to the bloc’s commercial standards.

The NPA’s chief Lizzie Wilson has now urged the government to extend the ban on non-commercial pork imports to all consignments to “make it simpler for travellers to understand and easier to enforce”.

“The volumes being seized are deeply worrying,” said Wilson. “The most worrying aspect is the assumption that the meat being seized at Dover represents only the tip of the iceberg.

“We understand, anecdotally, that due to the cost of living crisis there is a growing black market for meat in this country, which will be driving the demand for illegally imported meat for both domestic and commercial use.

“This can be difficult and unpleasant work, and we are hugely grateful for the tireless efforts being made by DPHA to seize this illegal meat,” Wilson added.

Port health manager at Dover District Council and Port Health Authority, Beverley Edmondson, told the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s EHN magazine earlier this month that Dover was “seeing unprecedented quantities of illegal, non-compliant meat, unparalleled at any other point of entry”.

“Our experiences over the last 12 months have highlighted the scale and scope of the illegal meat trade,” she said. “We estimate that, for every tonne of illicit meat removed, there are multiple tonnes entering GB undetected.”

The NPA also warned of the threats of African swine fever (ASF) infected meat potentially entering the UK undetected.

“As we know from the regular emergence of ASF in new areas across Europe, often attributed to human spread, it will only take one incident of a piece of infected meat reaching a pig to bring the entire pig industry to its knees,” Wilson said.

The trade group has also backed Edmondson’s calls to beef up resources at the border and place inspections under port health authority jurisdiction, rather than Border Force, for specific high-risk locations such as Dover.

“We continue to call on Defra to improve our border controls generally, and are seeking assurances from government that there will be no more delays to the implementation of proper border checks on commercial imports via the Border Target Operating Model, which has now been postponed five times,” Wilson said.

“An outbreak of ASF would be catastrophic for the pig sector, with many knock-on effects. We urge the government to take this threat seriously.”