Silly sausage: traveller returning from Bali fined at Darwin airport after dog sniffs out McDonald’s breakfast in backpack

Zinta the black labrador’s nose didn’t let her down as Australia beefs up airport biosecurity after Indonesian foot-and-mouth disease outbreak

Zinta the detector dog sniffed out a McDonald’s meal in an inbound traveller’s backpack. Australia has heightened biosecurity measures due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia. Photograph: Ministry of agriculture
Zinta the detector dog sniffed out a McDonald’s meal in an inbound traveller’s backpack. Australia has heightened biosecurity measures due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia. Photograph: Ministry of agriculture

Zinta was new on the job as a biosecurity detector dog and may have felt the weight of Australia’s $80bn agriculture industry on her sleek black shoulders, or rather, her keen wet nose.

That nose managed to sniff out what would become a passenger’s most expensive McDonald’s breakfast, two egg and beef sausage McMuffins and a ham croissant bought in Bali and brought in a backpack into Australia.

Zinta’s discovery of the undeclared meat at Darwin airport last week led to the traveller returning from Indonesia being whacked with a $2,664 fine, amid strengthened biosecurity measures at Australian airports since the highly contagious foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD) was detected in Bali.

Murray Watt, the minister for agriculture said “this will be the most expensive Macca’s meal this passenger ever has, this fine is twice the cost of an air fare to Bali”.

However, he had “no sympathy for people who choose to disobey Australia’s strict biosecurity measures, and recent detections show you will be caught”.

It comes after an Australian woman was fined $2,664 for failing to declare a Subway sandwich at the airport after returning from Singapore.

Zinta the black labrador is part of a new $14m biosecurity package introduced at the beginning of July after the Indonesian outbreak of FMD, which included detector dogs operating at Darwin and Cairns airports, sanitation foot mats at all international airports, frontline defences in mail centres, and support for Indonesia and neighbouring countries.

FMD causes blisters in cloven-hoofed animals but the effects of it entering Australia would be far more widespread, with the culling of animals and shutdown of Australia’s export market overnight, which would cost the nation $80bn, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

“Biosecurity is no joke – it helps protect jobs, our farms, food and supports the economy,” Watt said.

Australia has only to look to what happened in 2001 in the UK – piles of culled farm animals set alight, villages locked down, regional economies crippled – to know Watt is not exaggerating.

“Passengers who choose to travel need to make sure they are fulfilling the conditions to enter Australia, by following all biosecurity measures,” Watt said.

Watt said “Zinta was placed at Darwin airport as part of the Albanese government’s tough new biosecurity defences, and it’s excellent to see she is already contributing to keeping the country safe”.

The seized meat products will be tested for FMD before they are destroyed, authorities said.

Authorities say the passenger was issued a 12-unit infringement notice for failing to declare potential high biosecurity risk items and providing a false and misleading document.

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