Dogs are increasingly used at the border control in many countries. Mostly they are used to detect drugs. But the noses of dogs can do more than that. In Finland a dog named Aino helps customs inspectors to detect and prevent the import of contaminated food.
Swine fever is a deadly disease originating in Africa. In some countries it has infected animals used for meat and milk production. To prevent swine fever to enter Europe, the European Union has banned the import of meat and milk products from countries where swine fever has been found.
Despite the ban, there is a risk that tourists and travellers coming to EU may in their baggage carry infected foods.
Aino is a one-year-old golden retriever and Finland’s first dog trained to detect infected food. Aino can sniff out meat and milk products in the baggage of travellers when they arrive at the border.
When on mission, Aino works together with Customs Inspector Seija Kontinen. During the past six months alone, Aino and Seija have already detected and prevented the import of over 600 kg of infected food products.
The Finnish Customs has nearly fifty highly specialised dogs. Most of them have been trained to detect drugs, but some are also sniffing out cigarettes, money, weapons and explosives. Now they can also detect infected food. At the moment, Aino recognises food odors such as wild boar, pig, chicken and beef and sausage. Aino recognises fresh and processed foods when packed in different ways. Aimo can even find paper used to package illegal products.
Initially Aino will be stationed at the Finnish/Russian border where new control measures are being tested. Later, Aino will serve at other border stations like airports and ports.
An Critical Mission
African swine fever has so far not been detected in Finland. But it presents a serious threat to local pork production. The disease is not transmitted to humans, but it spreads with humans and animals from one country to another.
Attention is now paid to travellers coming from outside the EU. The disease usually spreads from infected pigs to healthy pigs through the respiratory tract and through the mouth. But the disease could spread to Finland in meat products like snacks carried by travellers.
In addition to the use of dogs, special information boards will be set up to remind travellers that products of animal origin such as meat and dairy products may not be imported across the border. Travellers will be able to throw their meat or milk products into so-called ”regret cans.”
African swine fever has so far not been detected in Finland, but it is a serious threat to pork production. Although, the disease is not transmitted to humans, it spreads with humans and animals from one country to another.
Four years ago, African swine fever spread to Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Estonia. In recent years, infections have been detected in these countries both in domestic and in wild animals. Furthermore, the disease is also common in Ukraine. Last year, swine fever was first detected in the Czech Republic and Roumania.
”In the worst case, we are destroying one of our food industries. For example, we have just opened up new export destinations in Asian countries. The first outbreaks of swine fever would end this very daunting export work”, says Husu-Kallio from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Although swine fever has not been detected in Finland, the threat of spreading the disease is increasing. Aino is the first professional dog in Finland to eliminate this serious risk. Aino is a remarkable example of how critical dogs have become for our societies.