Bringing back novel or exotic food and plant products from some countries could result in serious disease and unwanted pests.
These diseases may threaten the health of local agricultural livestock and crops.
In a statement released this week, DARD’s Chief Veterinary Officer Bert Houston explained: "At this time of year, returning holidaymakers or people visiting for major events should remember that there are basic rules on what they can and can't bring home with them. When travelling from outside the EU, there are strict rules about bringing meat, dairy, vegetables and plant products back for your personal use.
“People travelling through local ports or airports should check the rules on food and plant imports before they leave home. Illegal goods will be seized and destroyed, and delays to passengers may result." There is also a risk of prosecution or a fine.
“These restrictions are necessary as epizootic diseases threaten our animal health status include foot and mouth, swine fever and avian flu," Houston continued. "The public should also remember that they could face serious human health risks associated with eating unfit products.
“During 2012, over 548kg of illegal food products were seized at the two main local airports [in Northern Ireland]. Since 1998, consignments of illegal food imports of food products of non-EU origin have been seized from over 80 countries worldwide.”
In conclusion Mr Houston said: "In order to stem the flow of illegal imports of food and plant products, into local airports and ports the Department's Portal Inspection Branch maintain a permanent inspection presence at these locations. Whilst getting away for a break is always welcome, I would urge the public to make themselves aware of the restrictions they face when they return home regarding bringing food and plants back with them."
More detailed information can be found here
(Picture courtesy of Kuster and Wildhaber)