Pig farmers have failed in their legal bid to overturn a government decision allowing raw pork imports from countries with Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).
The disease, also known as blue-ear pig disease, causes still-born piglets and respiratory illnesses in young pigs. It costs the US swine industry more than $US600 million ($NZ729m) a year, according to the nationalhogfarmer.com website.
In a two-to-one decision, the Court of Appeal today overturned the NZ Pork Industry Board's appeal against an earlier High Court decision.
The board had challenged the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) response to an independent review panel report on raw meat imports, which then allowed raw pig meat imports from the European Union, Canada, USA and Mexico.
Board chairman Ian Carter said the court's decision was disappointing, as farmers still had concerns about the safety of raw pork imports.
But MPI director-general Wayne McNee says he is confident it effectively manages the risks of diseases such as PRRS becoming established in New Zealand.
The court's decision was pleasing as the board's appeal could have seen the consultation process to continue indefinitely while NZ Pork continued to debate the relevant science.
He said under the new standards raw pork may only be imported without further treatment in consumer-ready cuts of less than three kilograms, free from lymphatic tissue.
According to NZ Pork, a total of 41,384 tonnes of pork was imported in 2011/2012, of which 97.5 percent was frozen. Canada was the biggest supplier, followed by the US, Finland and Australia.