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Be biosecurity aware this Lunar New Year

16 January 2023

The arrival of the Year of the Rabbit on 22 January is a reminder to be biosecurity aware this Lunar New Year.

Acting Secretary of the Department and acting Director of Biosecurity, Dr Chris Locke, said Lunar New Year gifts could be stopped at the border as they may pose an unacceptable risk to Australia.

“I know this is the time of year when family and loved ones from overseas want to reach out and send presents,” Dr Locke said.

“Unfortunately, there are some traditional gifts for Lunar New Year that could introduce pests and diseases into Australia.

“We often see items at the border that contain pork, fruit, plants, herbs and eggs. Items like these could pose a high risk of introducing pests and diseases.

“Pork, for example, is a serious risk as it can carry both foot and mouth disease (FMD) and African swine fever (ASF).

“FMD is a highly contagious disease affecting many animals Australia relies on for food, milk and fibre. A widespread FMD outbreak could cost the Australian economy $80 billion over ten years. ASF would ravage our pork industry, market access and economy.

“Australia remains ASF and FMD free, but we must continue to stay alert to the risk.

“Fruit, plants and herbs could carry diseases such as citrus canker and fire blight, which attack fruit trees, destroying our horticulture industry and barring our producers from overseas trade.

“If you want to buy gifts for your family this year, buy locally. There are Australian businesses who stock plenty of traditional Lunar New Year gifts.

“If you have relatives or friends overseas who might send gifts, make sure they are aware of what they can and can’t send to Australia by checking the department’s website or the imports database, BICON.

“If you’re travelling to Australia for the New Year, make sure you complete your incoming passenger card truthfully, by marking YES on your card to declare if you are carrying certain food, plant material or animal products.

“If you fail to declare biosecurity risk items, you may receive an infringement notice of up to $5,500 and you may have your visa cancelled. Not packing any of these products and buying locally in Australia is a much safer option and will also reduce your time at the airport!

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and none of us can afford to be complacent.

“Australia’s agricultural industry and environment rely on all of us playing our part to keep out dangerous pests and diseases.”

Fast facts:

  • Lunar New Year items that may not be permitted into Australia as they could pose biosecurity risks include:

  • fresh or dried fruit and vegetables (dates, citrus, persimmons, lychees and longans)

  • mooncakes containing meat or meat-based ingredients

  • birds nests

  • meat products (fresh, frozen, dried, preserved or cured chicken, beef and pork sausages)

  • dairy products, including milk and yoghurt

  • plant material (banana leaves, seeds, wooden artifacts, fresh bamboo shoots and lotus nuts)

  • traditional herbal medicines containing Ganoderma fungus or cordyceps

  • whole eggs, especially duck eggs and products containing eggs.

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