News and Views

Hiding risky food items has high cost

A man who was intercepted at Melbourne International Airport attempting to conceal more than 18kg of undeclared food in his luggage, has been fined in a NSW court.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ head of Compliance, Raelene Vivian, said that Mr Dwi Agus Setyawan, an Indonesian national was returning to Australia on a work visa when a detector dog alerted biosecurity officers to the hidden food items.

“Our biosecurity staff uncovered some high-risk food items including spices, fruits, vegetables, plant and animal material weighing in excess of 18kg,” Ms Vivian said.

“The owner of these items was a chef by profession and had intended to showcase a number of local foods from his native village.

“While his intentions may have seemed innocuous enough, these items could have carried some of the world’s most serious pests and diseases that have the potential to devastate our valuable agriculture and tourism industries as well as our unique environment.”

The man was last week fined $4000 for breaching sections in the Quarantine Act 1908 pertaining to illegal importations and for making misleading statements about what he had packed.

“Travellers carrying foods, plant material or animal products in their luggage must declare them on their incoming passenger card,” Ms Vivian said.

“We take these incidents very seriously and a plea of ignorance won’t get you off the hook.

“The community has a big role to play here in protecting our human, plant and animal health from these pests and diseases—by being biosecurity aware and declaring all plant and animal material when travelling to Australia.”

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