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Vaccines: Border Inspection Posts

Volume 694: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued a closure notice for the border inspection post that deals with the import of intermediary products at Heathrow Airport; and what impact this closure will have on the British-based biopharmaceutical and vaccine production industries. [HL4764]

Where border inspection facilities do not meet the requirements of European Union (EU) legislation, the Secretary of State is obliged, by the Products of Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended), to suspend the facility.

The report of an inspection by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Commission of the Heathrow inspection centre in June 2004 stated that the British Airways (BA) inspection centre had a number of deficiencies. In its covering letter on the November 2006 mission on import controls, the FVO stated that in the absence of progress on new facilities it would be recommending that Heathrow be removed from the list of border inspection posts (BIP) approved to handle products not intended for human consumption (NHC).

Inspection of the facilities by animal health officials noted the following deficiencies:

inadequate storage rooms;

inadequate changing facilities for staff;

shared unloading areas for human consumption (HC) and NHC products, resulting in a risk of cross-contamination; and

inadequate access to inspection rooms.

The decision to have a BIP at a sea port or airport is purely commercial. Other airports and sea ports in the UK and the rest of the EU are approved to take NHC products (for example, Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands, Stansted, Manston and Glasgow airports).

In reaching the decision to suspend the approval of Heathrow Airport for NHC products (with effect from 25 July 2007), Defra considered the financial impact of the decision not only on importers of non-food animal products but on the London Borough of Hillingdon, which provides the veterinary services, the airlines, handling agents, importing agents and couriers. Defra takes veterinary import controls extremely seriously and our over-riding consideration has to be protecting public and animal health in the UK.

Defra and animal health will continue to offer advice and support to any company that decides to provide new facilities in the future.