Media statement: White Spot Syndrome Virus testing at retail outlets

10 August 2018

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

The department has been testing imported raw prawns purchased from retail outlets across the country, to assess the effectiveness of the new import controls implemented after the lifting of the raw prawn import suspension in July 2017. 

The retail testing activity involved the collection of imported raw prawn products from a variety of retail outlets, including large and small supermarkets, fish shops, markets, and grocery stores.

The department finalised its testing activities on 10 July 2018. Prawn farmers and state and territory governments were informed of the results that week.

Of the 101 samples tested, two samples in Melbourne returned a strong positive for White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV). Four other samples returned a weak positive, which is consistent with potential cross-contamination from cooked prawn products.

Cooked prawns can carry WSSV DNA, but the virus is less likely to be infective because of the cooking process. 

The two strong positive samples are being investigated by the department. This involves tracing the imported product, identifying importers and suppliers and reviewing the entire supply chain.
It is not appropriate for the department to provide further information while the investigation is ongoing.

Enhanced import conditions for prawns and prawn products aim to reduce the biosecurity risk to an acceptable level, which is very low but not zero.

The department is confident these conditions are supporting the safe import of raw prawns.

The 100 per cent testing of imported raw prawn consignments at the border and results from the retail testing provides assurance that the risk of prawns with WSSV entering Australia is very low.