Court dismisses pork import challenge

Last updated 07:54 19/03/2013
pigs
COURT RULING: Cheaper pork could be on the menu.

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Cheaper pork could be on the menu after a court dismissed a challenge to the health standards that will allow raw pork to be imported from countries where a disease potentially fatal to pigs occurs.

The Pork Industry Board, which took the case to the Court of Appeal, has two weeks to decide whether it will appeal against the decision.

The board, which represents producers, has spent more than $1.5 million since 2006 fighting against the imports, which it said posed an unacceptable risk to the industry, chairman Ian Carter said.

It said the health standards developed under the former ministry of agriculture would not stop the disease, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, spreading to New Zealand pig herds. The disease does not affect humans but is the "No 1" pig disease internationally.

New Zealand is one of the few countries where herds are not infected.

Carter said it was encouraging that, in the Court of Appeal decision issued yesterday, one of the three judges agreed with the board that the way the ministry developed the import standard had not resolved scientific concerns about the risk from imports.

The Primary Industries Ministry says almost a decade was spent assessing the available science, carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment process and consulting affected parties and international experts before introducing the new import rules.

Before 2001 raw pork was imported for more than 10 years and the disease did not spread to New Zealand. Under the new standards, raw pork could be imported from the European Union, Canada, the United States and Sonora state, in Mexico, if it is in consumer- ready cuts of up to 3 kilograms.

Carter cast doubt on whether increased imports would reduce the price of pork. Already, nearly half the pig products eaten in New Zealand are imported, some in the form of bacon and ham, which kept pricing competitive, he said.

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