Introduction of African swine fever into the European Union through illegal importation of pork and pork products

Solenne Costard, Bryony Anne Jones, Beatriz Martínez-López, Lina Mur, Ana de la Torre, Marta Martínez, Fernando Sánchez-Vizcaíno, Jose-Manuel Sánchez-Vizcaíno, Dirk Udo Pfeiffer, Barbara Wieland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Transboundary animal diseases can have very severe socio-economic impacts when introduced into new regions. The history of disease incursions into the European Union suggests that initial outbreaks were often initiated by illegal importation of meat and derived products. The European Union would benefit from decision-support tools to evaluate the risk of disease introduction caused by illegal imports in order to inform its surveillance strategy. However, due to the difficulty in quantifying illegal movements of animal products, very few studies of this type have been conducted. Using African swine fever as an example, this work presents a novel risk assessment framework for disease introduction into the European Union through illegal importation of meat and products. It uses a semi-quantitative approach based on factors that likely influence the likelihood of release of contaminated smuggled meat and products, and subsequent exposure of the susceptible population. The results suggest that the European Union is at non-negligible risk of African swine fever introduction through illegal importation of pork and products. On a relative risk scale with six categories from negligible to very high, five European Union countries were estimated at high (France, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom) or moderate (Spain) risk of African swine fever release, five countries were at high risk of exposure if African swine fever were released (France, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain) and ten countries had a moderate exposure risk (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and United Kingdom). The approach presented here and results obtained for African swine fever provide a basis for the enhancement of risk-based surveillance systems and disease prevention programmes in the European Union.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61104
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013


  • African Swine Fever
  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Europe
  • European Union
  • Food Industry
  • Meat
  • Risk Assessment
  • Swine
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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