The release of an imported batch of raw prawns infected with White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) into the domestic retail prawn market is totally unacceptable and must never happen again, Senator Ron Boswell said today.
Senator Boswell quizzed AQIS officials in an Estimates hearing this week. An investigation by Biosecurity Australia found human error was to blame for the release of the contaminated prawns last year. Under normal operating conditions, AQIS officers should have either destroyed or re-exported the infected prawns.
While the WSSV disease poses no threat to human health, it can have devastating results on local prawn stocks.
“For these infected imported prawns to be released into our own retail market and no one be held accountable is a disgrace. It remains to be seen whether the recommendations contained in the Government’s report of the incident will give our local prawn farmers and fishers faith in the integrity of the new arrangements. The time-frame on the implementation of these recommendations is also very unclear,” Senator Boswell said.
The Interim Inspector of Biosecurity released a report into the incident and made a number of recommendations to improve the system of processing test results. These include improvements to the format of laboratory results reporting and tightening reporting requirements for notifying Biosecurity Services Group whether the outcomes are positive or negative.
“Our prawn industry does a fantastic job in maintaining high standards in producing quality produce. They should not be let down again by our biosecurity protocols. At present there is a ban on the importation of uncooked prawns unless marinaded. It is alleged that the marinade is then washed off before distribution and sold as prawn meat. These allegations need Biosecurity Australia’s immediate attention.” Senator Boswell said.