Back to list

Taiwan mulls centralized luggage checks for China flights

2019/01/08 22:18:03

CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Taiwan's customs and quarantine authorities are planning to centralize luggage checks at airports for flights from China, in an attempt to block pork products from the country, which is in the middle of an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, from entering Taiwan.

Processing the luggage of travelers who fly to Taiwan from China on two or three carousels at airports to facilitate quarantine checks, was proposed during a meeting of experts held by the Central Emergency Operation Center on the ASF threat Tuesday, as banned products continue to be found in the luggage of Chinese nationals entering the country despite the imposition of strict fines.

Council of Agriculture (COA) deputy chief Huang Chin-Cheng (黃金城) said the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) will discuss the proposal with the Customs Administration under the Ministry of Finance Wednesday.

Taiwan has been on high alert over the threat posed by ASF since the first confirmed case of ASF infection was reported in China's Liaoning Province last August. As of Dec. 19 the hog virus had spread to 23 of China's 31 provinces, according to BAPHIQ data.

If the virus enters Taiwan, it could devastate the local pig farming industry which is worth NT$80 billion (US$2.59 billion).

At Tuesday's meeting, professors in veterinary science from local universities warned that despite border quarantine measures being tightened to unprecedented levels, human negligence during X-ray scanning and the shortage of sniffer dogs on duty could still lead to disaster.

Moreover, as the Lunar New Year holiday approaches, quarantine work is expected to dramatically increase given that there will be a significant surge in the number of people traveling between China and Taiwan, the experts warned.

Pork products from ASF-stricken areas are one of the main channels through which the ASF virus can enter Taiwan and spread to more than 5 million domestic pigs through kitchen leftovers.

Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗), an honorary professor at National Taiwan University's School of Veterinary Medicine, told CNA in a recent interview that the ASF virus is resilient to acid and alkali, and it can survive in chilled meat for three to four months and in frozen meat for more than three years.

Even in processed products like sausages, ham and bacon, the deadly virus is almost always fatal to pig, Lai said, noting that the virus can only be destroyed if meat products are heated at 90 degrees Celsius or higher for at least 5 minutes.

Lai, who likened ASF to AIDS in swine, pointed out that 30 percent of ASF outbreaks in China were caused by feeding livestock kitchen waste. As such, he emphasized the importance of properly managing kitchen waste here in Taiwan.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)