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Travelers smuggling raw pork from China to face maximum penalty

2018/09/02 19:23:01

COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城, file photo)

Taipei, Sept. 2 (CNA) Anyone caught attempting to smuggle raw pork into Taiwan from China, where a highly contagious and deadly disease is spreading through hog farms, will be slapped with a fine of NT$15,000 (US$488) -- the maximum penalty for such a crime, the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) has announced.

The measure is part of strengthened efforts by the council to isolate Taiwan from the virus that causes African swine fever (ASF), which COA officials said will exact a heavy toll on Taiwan's hog industry if it spreads to the island.

COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城), who supervises the country's livestock industry, told CNA Sunday that there are currently 5.43 million pigs being raised around Taiwan for an industry that has a production value of more than NT$100 billion annually.

Every day, approximately 22,000 pigs are slaughtered to meet domestic demand, Huang said, warning that it will be a serious problem if the ASF virus finds its way to Taiwan and infects local pigs.

He pointed out that there is no vaccine to combat the virus, which spreads quickly and kills every pig it infects.

Rising ASF outbreaks in China have alerted neighboring countries, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, all of which were free of ASF until recently, when a pork product brought by a traveler from China to South Korea tested positive for ASF, the official said.

According to COA data, 292 travelers were caught at Taiwan's borders in August trying to smuggle pork products into the country from China, including raw pork.

In violation of the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease, each of the smugglers were slapped with a fine of NT$3,000, the minimum penalty for such an offense.

The COA then randomly selected 24 samples out of the seized pork products and sent them for laboratory examination. The test results had not yet been acquired as of Sunday, according to the COA.

Huang said that if ASF is found in the samples, the COA will consider taking further action against the smugglers.

China reported its first ASF case in Liaoning Province Aug. 3. Since then, outbreaks have occurred in Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, according to Shih Tai-hua (施泰華), deputy director-general of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

The COA announced reinforced quarantine measures Friday, including the decision to impose the maximum penalty on pork smugglers.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)