Moonstruck for biosecurity

23 September 2020

As communities across world start their Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrations, biosecurity officers will be on the lookout for potentially risky mooncakes at the border.

Head of Biosecurity, Andrew Tongue, has reminded people who send and receive gifts from overseas to consider the biosecurity risks.

“Australia is free from many pests and diseases which are present in other countries—and we want to keep it that way. That is why we have strict biosecurity requirements,” Mr Tongue said.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on international travel, the department is expecting to see an increase of mooncakes sent by mail this year.

“Traditional Autumn Moon festival foods such as mooncakes, fresh pomelo, fresh star fruit and taro can all pose a biosecurity risk.

“Mooncakes in particular pose a risk because they sometimes contain meat and egg yolk fillings which may carry exotic pests and diseases, such as African Swine Fever (ASF) and citrus canker which would have a significant impact on pig and plant health and production in Australia if they were ever to establish here.”

“We have now had 14 visas cancelled under the new biosecurity-related visa cancellation ground since 1 October 2019.

 “Late last year a Vietnamese man had his visa cancelled for failing to declare nearly four kilograms of pork-filled mooncakes which he was carrying in his luggage.

 “In the lead up to and during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, people can play their part in helping to protect Australia’s biosecurity system by letting family and friends overseas know about Australia’s biosecurity laws and asking them not to send mooncakes.

“Australian shops stock a large variety of mooncakes and we encourage people to buy mooncakes in Australia instead of bringing them from overseas.

“Knowing the law is not only important for Australia’s biosecurity, but it helps to reduce delays for people waiting to receive gifts.”

Travellers who fail to declare biosecurity risk goods on arrival into Australia may be issued an infringement notice for $444, and legislation is currently being considered by Parliament to increase this penalty to $2664 for certain high risk products. Visa holders also risk having their visa cancelled and being refused entry into Australia. Australian citizens and residents may also be subject to criminal prosecution.  If convicted, they could be penalised up to $444,000 and could face up to 10 years in jail.

For more information on what can and cannot be mailed or brought into Australia during this festival.