The National Pig Association (NPA) has called on the Prime Minister to take action to improve the UK’s border controls, in the face of a growing risk of diseases like African swine fever (ASF) reaching the UK.

In the absence of formal biosecurity checks on meat products from the EU, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer called for more robust checks at points of entry, including the use of sniffer dogs.

“Yet, identical EU products are permitted to move the other way unhindered and at a lower cost, placing European businesses at a competitive advantage,” Mutimer said.

“Not only are we deliberately harming our own business interests, we are advertising an open border approach to anyone who would wish to avoid the customs duties, taxes and biosecurity checks which come with trading with a third country.”

Mutimer highlighted the spread of ASF in Europe, which, while predominantly spread by wild boar, can also result from the movement of contaminated meat products, "often being traded illegally from restricted zones where ASF outbreaks have occurred".

“If no biosecurity checks are taking place at UK borders to prevent and deter the illegal import of contaminated meats, we are leaving ourselves worryingly vulnerable to a catastrophe,” he added.

“While the government awaits the introduction of a new digital trading system, we ask that our borders be significantly better protected through more robust checks at all points of entry, including ports, airports and postal hubs.”

He pointed out that a two-week multi-agency exercise in 2020 at Heathrow and Gatwick airports saw significant quantities of illegal meat imports seized, which appears to be "indicative of a far wider problem".

Since then, Scottish authorities have introduced sniffer dog teams to detect products of animal origin.

“These are based permanently at key entry points, and we would welcome a UK-wide expansion of this initiative," he said.