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Illegal Meat Imports

Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will discuss with the Secretary of State for Transport introducing a compulsory element to air passenger safety films on board aircraft to tackle the dangers of illegal meat imports. (111630)

DEFRA holds regular discussions, on a range of issues, with the Department for Transport. Article 3 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 745/2004 lays down measures with regard to imports of products of animal origin for personal consumption. Under this regulation, international passenger transport operators are obliged to inform all EU-bound passengers of the animal health conditions for Community imports of products of animal origin.

Airlines operating flights into the UK from non-EU countries are regularly reminded of their obligations. They have been offered the script of an announcement and a video produced by DEFRA and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for in-flight use, to assist them in meeting this requirement. Almost 200 airlines have been contacted as part of this exercise, with the majority taking up the offer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the volume of illegal meat imports into the UK in each of the last five years; what volume has been seized; how many successful prosecutions there have been for meat smuggling; and what further steps he plans to take to tackle illegal meat imports. (111442)

Because the trade referred to is illegal, data on the volume of imports do not exist. In 2006 the European Food Safety Authority published a risk assessment into the risk of foot and mouth disease being introduced into the EU, which is available on the DEFRA website. This estimated that up to 2,000 tonnes of animal products may be illegally imported by travellers into the EU each year.

Since April 2001, seizures of illegal meat imported into the UK have been recorded and are shown in the following table:

As at 1 April to 31 March each year:

Seizures (kilograms)











HM Revenue and Customs has been responsible for anti-smuggling controls on products of animal origin into Great Britain since 11 April 2003.

The numbers of prosecutions taken by HM Revenue and Customs for POAO illegal imports offences are shown in the following table:

As at April to March each year:

Number of prosecutions







All prosecutions were successful.

Details of prosecutions for offences relating to illegal imports of meat into the UK are recorded by local authorities and are not collected centrally.

HMRC continues to target POAO on the basis of risk and intelligence, with a view to reducing the level of illegal imports. All HMRC frontline detection staff include animal products as part of their anti-smuggling responsibilities. However, within these resources, dedicated teams (currently totalling around 100 officers) with prime responsibility for detecting illegal POAO are deployed. Anti-smuggling staff are supported by both the use of detector dogs and baggage x-ray scanning equipment.

DEFRA assists HMRC in deploying its resources according to risk, by providing information on the animal health disease situation around the world, including the risks from new disease outbreaks. HMRC and DEFRA continue to develop and evaluate publicity campaigns aimed at raising awareness within Great Britain, at borders and overseas.

Further details can be found in the ‘Annual Review of Controls on Imports of Animal Products: April 2005-March 2006’. A copy has been deposited in the House Library.