As required under the Animal Health Act 1981 (as amended by the Animal Health Act 2002) the Government will publish today a review of controls on the import of animal products for the financial year 2010-11.
Following my first year as Minister of State responsible for agriculture and food, I welcome the opportunity again to report on the actions made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and other Government Departments and agencies during the past year aimed at reducing the risk of disease entering the country via imports of animal products.
The Government remain committed to strong action to prevent illegal imports of animal products from outside the European Union (EU) that may bring the risk of diseases that can threaten animal and public health, for example foot and mouth disease (FMD) and highly pathogenic avian influenza type H5N1 respectively. There is also the substantial risk to the economy as we know from the outbreak of FMD in 2001 which is estimated to have cost £3 billion relating to agriculture and the food chain.
Following the spending review, DEFRA with the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), albeit at low or no cost, have continued to undertake a joined-up approach on the overall communications strategy and seek opportunities to help raise travellers’ awareness of the rules on personal imports of animal products.
It is also pleasing to report the existing intelligence framework between UKBA and the FSA has been strengthened to improve the flow of risk information available for border and inland enforcement activities to target illegal animal products.
We can never have a zero risk but we continue to monitor and assess the changing threats from around the world. We therefore continue to work closely with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to ensure that its anti-smuggling controls at the Great Britain (GB) border are responsive to new or changing animal health risks and to ensure it focuses on the most high-risk routings and goods.
Copies of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, on the DEFRA personal food imports website (http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/food/personal- import/index.htm), and we will be writing to interested groups and stakeholders providing them with the opportunity to comment on or query anything in the review and/or meet officials.