News

X-rays aid biosecurity

By Country News

A 3D X-ray unit is now in place permanently at Melbourne Airport to protect the country’s $11billion horticultural industries from passengers bringing pests and diseases into the country.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the new unit was automatically detecting biosecurity risks in fruit and vegetables that passengers failed to declare, and could be expanded to target significant biosecurity threats such as high-risk seeds and meat.

‘‘Biosecurity is an investment in protecting jobs and the economy,’’ Senator McKenzie said.

‘‘The new X-ray units are part of a $7.5million investment in the 2018-19 federal budget.

‘‘They are helping to protect the 73000 jobs in the horticulture industry, using 3D images to automatically detect risk items in luggage and alerting biosecurity officers to the threat.

‘‘So far the 3D X-ray at Melbourne Airport has screened 18000 bags and detected over 1200 risk items, at a detection rate of seven per cent, with early signs showing it is significantly better at detecting items than the current system.

‘‘This is helping keep out diseases like citrus canker, which has led to extensive production losses in citrus industries across the globe.’’

Senator McKenzie said the disease would wreak havoc on Australia’s citrus industry if it established here.

Now the X-ray technology has been proven, it is being trialled at Melbourne International Mail Centre to detect fruit and other biosecurity risks in mail items.

This world-first innovation is part of a joint project with Biosecurity New Zealand, which is trialling the same 3D X-ray unit at Auckland Airport.

The X-ray images generated from the Melbourne and Auckland units will be combined to create an extensive biosecurity risk image library.