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Food: Contamination

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what checks are made for illegal drug residues in seafood being imported from China; what monitoring takes place to prevent contaminated Chinese seafood being offered for sale in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (178432)

We are advised by the Food Standards Agency, which has responsibility for food safety matters, that the regulatory controls in respect of imports from non-European Union (EU) countries are comprehensive, and operate EU wide. Imported foods from non-EU countries are subject to checks at United Kingdom ports of entry by local authorities under EU food legislation.

These official controls ensure that products of animal origin such as fishery products from approved countries outside the EU, including China, have come from approved establishments. Such products must enter the UK through designated border inspection posts under the control of veterinary inspectors, where they undergo documentary and identity checks, and prescribed proportions are subject to physical checks, which may include testing for contaminants.

Since September 2001 EU legislation has prohibited the importation of aquaculture fishery products from China due to concerns regarding illegal residues of veterinary medicines. Since then, and as a result of EU inspections, the controls on aquaculture fishery products have been reduced and from August 2004 imports of certain aquaculture fishery products are permitted, if accompanied by an attestation from the competent Chinese authorities that the product has been tested and is free from illegal residues of chloramphenicol and nitrofurans.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate carries out surveillance of imported foodstuffs. Since August 2004, 43 samples of farmed fish and 25 samples of crustaceans from China have been tested for illegal residues. In 2006 a sample of fish contained non-compliant residues of nitrofuran metabolites. In 2007 a sample of fish contained non-compliant residues of crystal violet—which is a dye not authorised for use as a veterinary medicine in the EU and therefore should not be present in imports.