DAERA reminds holidaymakers - don’t risk it, leave it behind

Date published: 09 July 2019

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) today issued a reminder to holidaymakers travelling abroad not to bring any animal or plant products back into Northern Ireland.

Portal photograph showing specimen items seized and destroyed at local ports.

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert J Huey cautioned that it is illegal to bring certain food and plant products back into the country to avoid the risks of importing animal or plant disease.

Dr. Huey said: “I make no excuses for repeating this message. The greatest risk is to our agri-food industry and our environment, as any introduction of pests, diseases and non-native species can have a potentially devastating impact. Ecosystems can be disrupted with significant knock-on effects on agriculture and the local economy.

“Imports of meat or meat products, milk and other dairy products are banned from most countries outside the EU. There are also strict controls on animal products that can be brought in from the EU, it is always advisable to check the rules before travel and refrain from bringing back animal products or plants that might be carrying pests or disease. Illegal products will be seized and destroyed. Furthermore anyone detected in possession of prohibited items risks prosecution and a fine. So please do not bring any of these products back to Northern Ireland.”

Diseases such as foot-and-mouth cause serious economic impacts and can be brought into Northern Ireland via infected products of animal origin. Animal-related products may also pose a risk to human health from diseases, residues or contaminants. Such diseases and pests can have a disastrous effect on livestock, crops or the environment.

There is currently a specific concern over the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), which is largely attributed to pigs consuming contaminated pork or pork products. The risk to Northern Ireland has steadily increased due to the recent spread of ASF in Belgium, other European countries and South East Asia, including China. 

Whilst there is no human health risk from this disease, it is easily transmitted in pork products.  If ASF were to enter Northern Ireland it could have devastating effects, all exports of relevant agri-food products would be severely restricted, damaging the Northern Ireland economy and putting local jobs at risk. Meat and dairy products should not be brought into Northern Ireland in passenger`s luggage; such items may be seized by Portal Inspection Branch staff at local ports and airports.

In excess of 300 kilograms of illegal meat and dairy products, detected in passenger luggage, has been seized by DAERA portal officials at Northern Ireland’s airports during June 2019. A sample of these seizures have been tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) resulting in the detection of ASF DNA fragments. Whilst this type of discovery in itself does not pose a significant threat to the animal health status of Northern Ireland nor does it affect the disease free status from ASF it does reinforce the importance of the controls on personal imports of meat and dairy products enforced by DAERA officials.

Dr Huey’s message was endorsed by Jim Crummie, Director of Plant Health at DAERA who added: “As well as animal products, fruit and vegetables may also carry pests that can infect plants. We are asking people not to bring plants, seeds or plant products back from their holidays. An attractive flower or some seeds may seem like an innocent souvenir or present but, unknowingly, pests and diseases can be present. There is also a risk that non-native species may be introduced that can have potentially catastrophic consequences on agriculture, horticulture, forestry and the environment if unchecked."

The message is simple - ‘Don’t risk it - leave it behind’.

For detailed information on what can and cannot be brought into Northern Ireland, call the DAERA Portal Inspection Office on: 028 9442 6822 or contact: aldergrove.portal@daera-ni.gov.uk

For more information please visit the nidirect website.

DAERA maintains an inspection presence at all of Northern Ireland’s main ports and airports.

Notes to editors: 

1. Personal imports of meat or meat products and milk/dairy products are banned from most countries outside the EU. There are also strict controls on bringing the following products:

  • potatoes
  • plants
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • honey
  • eggs and egg products
  • certain fruit and vegetables

2. The same rules apply whether you are bringing these food items into Northern Ireland yourself, if a friend or a relative is bringing them as a gift, or if they are sent in the post.

3. If you bring back banned items, or items in an amount that exceeds certain weight limits, all of the goods will be seized and destroyed.

4. The Department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.

5. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook

6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email to pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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