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Food Imports

Volume 402: debated on Thursday 3 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much (a) beef, (b) lamb, (c) port and (d) chicken was imported into the United Kingdom during the last 12 months; and from which countries these imports are allowed. [106696]

During the last 12 months the United Kingdom has imported, 224,000 tonnes of beef, 102.000 tonnes of lamb, 291,000 tonnes of pork and 305,000 tonnes of poultry meat.Meat imports are permitted provided that the exporting country is approved to export to the EU; the meat is accompanied by appropriate animal and public health certification and that the meat originates from EU approved establishments.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps she has taken to strengthen the system of checks on food imports. [104909]

[holding answer 25 March 2003]: The EU operates a system of strict controls on imports of animal products. All products of animal origin must be checked on entry into the UK at a border inspection post (BIP). Following the outbreak of FMD, the State Veterinary Service have introduced an audit programme for BIPs to ensure consistent application of these import checks. During the visits officers provide advice to BIPs and monitor progress to correct any deficiencies found.Additional measures have been introduced at ports and airports to tackle illegal imports. Temporary agency staff attached to the local and port health authorities and funded by Defra, have been recruited to carry out checks to detect smuggled goods—teams of six are based at our major airports and teams of two at major seaports. We are also paying for additional checks through overtime elsewhere. Further inspection resources have also been provided through the detector dog pilot, and a publicity campaign which has targeted ports, airports and points of departure. We have announced that with effect from 11 April, HM Customs and Excise will be taking over responsibility for anti-smuggling activity since they have the infrastructure, intelligence and experience to target more effectively.The Food Standards Agency has responsibility for public health checks on all other imported foods. Following a Cabinet Office review of checks on imports the Food Standards Agency are leading a step change project to deliver improved co-ordination of all imported food controls by local authorities and port health authorities at seaports, airports and inland.