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Visitors to Taiwan cautioned against meat imports during Lunar New Year

Individual fined NT$200,000 for bringing 2 sushi rolls from Hong Kong

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A meat product from China. (CNA, Veterinary Research Institute photo)

A meat product from China. (CNA, Veterinary Research Institute photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Authorities in Taiwan are intensifying efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever (ASF) as the Lunar New Year holiday approaches, cautioning against the importation of meat products amid heightened global concerns.

At a press conference on Tuesday (Feb. 6), Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬), deputy-general of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIA), underscored the urgency of the situation. With 79 countries now reporting ASF cases, including two newly added this year, he said the risk remains significant.

While Taiwan and Japan have successfully kept ASF at bay, Hsu emphasized the necessity for sustained vigilance, particularly in Asia where the threat level persists, per CNA.

Since the lifting of border controls following the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan has experienced a surge in violations related to meat imports, both through postal channels and at entry points.

Customs data revealed that between Aug. 27, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2024, 6,795 meat items were intercepted, with 639 testing positive for the ASF virus. Alarmingly, 529 of these infected items were traced back to imports from China.

Authorities are on high alert for potential breaches of import regulations during the Lunar New Year accompanied by an influx of visitors.

Importers found in violation of regulations face substantial fines. Pork imports incur the heaviest penalties, starting at NT$200,000 (US$6,380) for initial offenses and escalating to NT$1 million for repeat violations, with those bringing in other types of meat subject to penalties ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$1 million.

In a recent case, a New Taipei resident surnamed Yang (楊) was fined NT$200,000 after attempting to bring two sushi rolls into the country following a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. Despite Yang's assertion that she believed the sushi contained only vegetables, detection dogs identified traces of meat, resulting in a hefty penalty.