Authorities intensify efforts to combat animal diseases along the Russian border
The authorities are introducing new actions to prevent dangerous animal diseases, including African swine fever, from spreading to Finland. The first Finnish customs dog that sniffs out foodstuffs started at the Vaalimaa border crossing on 14 June. The dog searches unauthorised foods of animal origin that travellers may have with them. New large information boards, guides and posters have been placed at the Vaalimaa border crossing, as well as food waste containers where passengers may leave foods of animal origin.
During the piloting stage the Finnish Customs will pay special attention to the control of imported souvenirs at all border crossings along the eastern border and at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. The food sniffer dog of the Finnish Customs will be used nationwide for these control tasks. This is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finnish Food Safety Authority, Finnish Customs and Finnish Border Guard.
“The new measures to be launched to combat African swine fever are an excellent example of good collaboration between the authorities. Every effort needs to be made in Finland and the whole EU to prevent the disease from spreading to new areas. Swine fever has serious consequences for pig husbandry, exports, and people’s lives in areas where the disease is found. This is a very serious matter, which is why each and every traveller must understand their responsibility when coming to Finland”, says Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä.
Finland’s first food sniffer dog
To further improve our border controls, the Finnish Customs has trained a detection dog specialised in sniffing out foodstuffs. A little over one year old Golden Retriever named Aino is the first food sniffer dog in Finland. Her training was coordinated by the Customs Dog Training Centre, and those consulted about the training process included the Heathrow Airport in London.
The food sniffer dog Aino mainly works at the eastern border, but she can also be used nationwide at airports and ports, as well as to assist the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira in carrying out its official duties. The food odours Aino is already able to detect include pork, beef, chicken meat, wild boar meat, sausages and cheese. Aino detects fresh and processed foodstuffs in different types of packages, and she is very eager to look for them.
“It is remarkable to have a dog at the Finnish Customs specifically trained to carry out this important task. Through her expertise Aino provides important support to the other collaborative efforts by the public authorities”, says Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry during her visit at Vaalimaa.
African swine fever a threat to pig husbandry
African swine fever is a serious threat to the Finnish and European pigmeat production. The disease is fatal to porcine animals, and it is found e.g. in the eastern parts of the EU, all Baltic states and the eastern neighbours of the EU. It is spread through careless actions by humans, as well as by animals. Among the transmission agents are pork and wild boar meat products brought as snacks or packed meals or as souvenirs. For example, the disease is suspected to have spread to the Czech Republic and Hungary via packed meals or food waste.
Because of the risk of spreading animal diseases, the EU legislation prohibits the import of meat, meat products, milk and milk products to the EU territory, whether brought by travellers or send by post to private individuals. Now there are food waste containers for foodstuffs of animal origin at the Vaalimaa border crossing where people can voluntarily put these products.
The new measures at the Vaalimaa border crossing are among the efforts by the EU to intensify the prevention of African swine fever so that it does not spread to areas that are still free from the disease, including Finland and other countries in Western Europe.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry: Taina Aaltonen, Deputy Director-General, tel. +358 295 162 439, Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary, tel. +358 400 291 910
Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira: Kitty Schulman, Head of Section, tel. +358 40 163 2531
Finnish Customs: Mikko Grönberg, Enforcement Director, tel. +358 40 332 2679