On the record - Korean food imports

DAFF has uncovered evidence of the deliberate importation and distribution of prohibited food items from Korea. DAFF has taken action to recover prohibited items and implement sanctions and prosecutions against parties involved.

Assertions have been made in the media that:

  • DAFF has not taken the import breach seriously – this is untrue.
  • Industry was not informed of the breach – this is untrue.
  • Australia’s biosecurity measures have not worked – this is untrue.
  • Australia is at risk of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) – this is incorrect.

The department takes biosecurity and Australia’s food security seriously.

Since December 2010, investigations uncovered evidence of unlawful importation and distribution of prohibited food items from Korea, including products containing cooked and uncooked pork, chicken, beef and dairy. 

DAFF has taken action to recover the food items and implement administrative sanctions. Recovery of the food has involved over 300 premises and 225 cargo inspections.

Approximately a dozen parties are potentially liable for prosecution.

In 2011, DAFF liaised with the Korean Government and stakeholders throughout the investigations, in particular:

  • 23 March –Senior DAFF officers met with Korean consular officials and trade representatives to inform them of illegal import food concerns and actions being taken.
  • 4 April – DAFF issued a media release and fact sheet in both English and Korean on importation of illegally imported Korean food. Both documents were distributed and made available on the DAFF website.
  • 13 April – Senior DAFF officers delivered a presentation and provided a fact sheet at a forum in Sydney organised by the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and attended by the Korean food importing community.
  • 21 April – Senior DAFF representatives met with Korean embassy officials to discuss concerns with illegally imported Korean food and to seek assistance from the Korean Government to prevent the arrival of future risk consignments.

Australia has been free from FMD for more than 100 years.  To manage the risk, both government and industry engage in significant prevention, planning and preparedness.

Nationally coordinated efforts to intercept and inspect prohibited Korean foods, combined with prosecution and sanction outcomes, demonstrate that Australia’s biosecurity system and stringent processes work.

The changing global environment means there is a need for greater emphasis on managing the whole biosecurity continuum – onshore, at the border and offshore – rather than focusing primarily on interventions at the border.

Effective biosecurity management requires activities offshore to reduce risks reaching the border, and actions onshore to deal with incursions. It means allocating our resources to target the areas that pose the highest biosecurity risks.

The recent Ken Matthews’ review recognises Australia’s strong record in protecting Australia from an outbreak of FMD and identifies ways to strengthen its biosecurity system.

Further information about FMD, food and food imports can be found on the DAFF website.