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Prawn importer faces criminal charges

AAP logoAAP 6/01/2017

At least one prawn importer suspected of flouting biosecurity controls is expected to face criminal charges as authorities work to contain a white spot disease outbreak.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Friday announced the indefinite suspension of green, or raw, prawn imports after white spot disease was detected in prawns sold for human consumption.

He says criminal charges are being pursued against one importer while another four are being investigated.

Samples from all consignments of imported green prawns must be sent for testing to ensure they are free of white spot under Australian quarantine laws.

But it's understood at least one importer was deliberately selecting only healthy prawns from consignments known to be infected with white spot and sending those to be tested.

White spot disease has hit five farms near the Logan River in Queensland's southeast, and has been detected in wild prawns in the river itself.

The disease poses no risk to human health but is deadly to prawns and could devastate Australia's $360 million prawn industry.

Prawns worth tens of millions of dollars, which were being raised in ponds at the infected farms, have had to be destroyed since white spot was confirmed last month.

The import suspension does not affect cooked prawns because the cooking process destroys white spot.

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