What is biosecurity?

Overview

Biosecurity helps us protect the health and wellbeing of our animals and plants. It prevents diseases from entering or spreading in Australia.

Biosecurity around the world

Around the world, exotic disease outbreaks have caused devastation to local farmers, animals and the economy. This includes developed countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Some of the exotic diseases that plague countries include:

  • African swine fever (ASF)
  • Foot and mouth disease (FMD)
  • Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS)
  • Porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED)

Australia remains one of only a few countries in the world that enjoys a high disease-free status. Some people think that it is due to our position as an isolated island nation.

Yet, it's not luck. It’s science and attention to detail.

We've created a system of science-based rules that:

  • Prevent the entry and spread of unwanted pests and diseases in Australia
  • Protect the health and well-being of our animals and plants

And protects our most important industries including:

  • Farming
  • Food exports
  • Tourism
  • Native animals and plants

This is what’s known as our biosecurity system.

Australia's biosecurity system

“It is through this comprehensive Biosecurity Systems that the government minimises the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia and protects our $32 billion agriculture export industries as well as our unique environment, native flora and fauna, our tourism industries and lifestyle.”

Our biosecurity system aims to stop or reduce diseases and pests moving across borders.

Australia’s biosecurity system works. We are one of only a few countries in the world that enjoys a high disease-free status for our pig herd.

  • On farms, biosecurity measures stop diseases and pests moving across the perimeters of individual farms.
  • Across the country, biosecurity processes stop diseases and pests from spreading across states and territories.

To maintain a strong biosecurity system, we need to ensure we stay vigilant. This will help our country remain free of devastating diseases.

Biosecurity laws

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources manages Australia’s biosecurity system.

Each year, they screen, inspect and clear "millions of people, mail parcels, baggage, ships, animals, plants and cargo containers entering Australia.”

Our biosecurity system is comprehensive. Biosecurity threats are screened before, during or after arrival in Australia.

Biosecurity processes can involve:

  • Monitoring and identifying disease outbreaks and risks to Australia
  • Assessing the risks of particular goods entering Australia
  • Utilising surveillance and border control activities to stop the entry of potential threats

Each state and territory in Australia also has a government department responsible for managing biosecurity issues.

Scientific assessment

Our biosecurity system involves robust scientific assessment.

An independent group of scientists, the Scientific Advisory Group, assess our biosecurity system. A science-based system helps ensure that biosecurity decisions are based on objective science and cannot be manipulated for commercial or political reasons.

  • The level of risk associated with an import is evaluated against scientific criteria known as a Biosecurity Import Risk Assessment (BIRA)

On the basis of this risk assessment a product will be granted access to Australia.

  • If a risk is identified, special conditions can be put in place in order to reduce that risk
  • If the risk level is too high, access will not be granted.
Ham and bacon

In Australia it is legal to import pork products that meet strict biosecurity requirements. This pork is widely used for the manufacture of ham and bacon.

In fact, the majority of all the processed ham and bacon consumed in Australia is made from pigs grown overseas. This pork often comes from the United States, European countries and Canada.

Pork that is imported into Australia must be frozen and boneless. It must not be fresh pork.

Processing pork through cooking, curing and smoking kills off most viruses and bacteria. While there is still a very small risk, processed pork from overseas is unlikely to expose Australia to a new disease.

Fresh pork

In Australia, it is illegal to import fresh, chilled pork. In fresh pork, most viruses remain alive and highly contagious.

A Biosecurity Import Risk Assessment identified this would expose our country to the threat of serious disease outbreaks.

More information

If you’d like to learn more about Australia’s biosecurity system, visit Animal Pests and Diseases at the Department of Agriculture.