White spot disease found in supermarket products
UPDATE: Biosecurity Queensland is "aware of the work being undertaken" by University of the Sunshine Coast researchers according to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
A Department spokesman said the USC testing underpinned previous results obtained by the Federal Government and Biosecurity Queensland, who had confirmed white spot disease in imported seafood.
The spokesman said the findings strengthen calls for recreational fishers not to use imported raw seafood for bait or burley.
A TEAM of researchers chasing the "gun" responsible for the white spot "bullet" which tore through south-east Queensland's prawn industry has found the DNA sequence disease in frozen foods purchased from two Coast supermarkets.
University of the Sunshine Coast associate professor Wayne Knibb is leading the Aquaculture Genetics Research Group and says "nearly everything" they tested at two Sunshine Coast supermarkets was found to be positive for white spot disease (as detected by PCR and DNA sequencing).
The testing was done on 15 frozen retail items purchased just in the last few weeks and included marinara mix, dim sims and spring rolls.
He said the items tested were from Vietnam, Thailand and China, and 14 of the 15 tested positive for the disease.
Assoc Prof Knibb said they'd only done the DNA testing on the samples, and hadn't analysed whether the items contained the live virus - and were therefore infectious - as they weren't permitted to test for the live virus.
He said it was proof Biosecurity Australia was still "dropping the ball" when it came to stamping out white spot disease.
The disease has been spotted in two locations in Moreton Bay and decimated the south-east Queensland prawn industry, after seven prawn farms on the Logan River tested positive for the virus.
White spot disease is a highly contagious virus which is harmless to humans, but devastating to prawn populations.
Infected prawns can stop eating and become lethargic and can be catastrophic for farmed prawns, with mortality rates of over 80% in farmed prawns if the disease takes hold.
"We detected white spot DNA in nearly every retail sample that are now in the shops, today," Assoc Prof Knibb said.
"We even found white spot in their cooked samples."
He said the positive samples all came from the frozen, packeted sections, not the deli, as imports were no longer allowed in the deli.
He questioned whether Biosecurity Australia was testing cooked samples, or whether it had assumed processed prawns weren't a threat.
The Daily has contacted Biosecurity Queensland, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for comment.