Last year, 609 Taiwanese travelers contravened government regulations by attempting to bring Chinese meat products into the nation, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said yesterday.
Every year, hundreds of meat products are brought into the nation illegally and more than one-half of the cases involve meat products from China, where African swine fever is spreading, bureau Deputy Director-General Shih Tai-hua (施泰華) said.
The virus that causes African swine fever can survive for 1,000 days in frozen meat and 100 days in refrigerated meat, he said, adding that these smuggled products expose the Taiwanese pig industry to the disease.
To prevent the spread of African swine fever, the bureau is cracking down on individual travelers smuggling pork products, he said.
Previously, pork-sniffing beagles were only stationed at airport luggage carousels before travelers pass through customs, allowing people caught with illegal pork to avoid fines by admitting to possession, he said.
Tightened enforcement would see dogs deployed at luggage carousels and at customs, enabling authorities to fine travelers attempting to smuggle pork, which could be as high as NT$15,000, he said
“Many travelers think that vacuum-packed meat products are legal or undetectable to dogs. They are not,” he said. “Meat products from China are not allowed, even if they are vacuum-sealed or canned.”
Many infractions have involved Chinese spouses returning from family holidays with festive foods, which frequently contain pork, he said, adding that sticky rice balls and mooncakes were a common sight during the Dragon Boat Festival.
However, custom officials often cut open food products for inspection, including alleged vegetarian sticky rice balls, he said.
Taiwanese pilgrims and group tours returning from religious sites in China, which frequently include elderly Taiwanese, are common violators of the no meat from China rule, he said.
“Those traveling grandparents are a big headache,” he said.
New immigrants from Southeast Asia also frequently try to bring forbidden food items into Taiwan, with duck eggs being a common item, he said.
However, given the high number of travelers between Taiwan and China, the latter remains the biggest source of contraband food items, he said.
The bureau is working closely with the Mainland Affairs Council to raise public awareness about regulations barring Chinese meat products from entering the country, he said.
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