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Animal Products: Review of Controls

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Food, Farming and the Environment (Mr Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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 2008-09. I welcome the opportunity to review and report on efforts during the past year to reduce the risk of disease entering the country via imports of animal products.

The control of imports of animal products remains a major concern for the Government as we fully appreciate the devastating effect that disease outbreaks can have on our farming of livestock and crops and on the environment and, in trying to protect animal health, we know how important it is to take a variety of measures at the border and inland. It has once again been a challenging year in monitoring the constantly changing disease situation around the world and evaluating and responding to threats. We continue to ensure that veterinary checks are carried out on legally imported animal products from non-European Union (EU) countries and work closely with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)/United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) and other relevant government departments to combat the risk of major diseases entering the country through illegal imports from outside the EU.

UKBA continues to deliver an enforcement strategy that targets anti-smuggling activity on the highest risk traffic to combat illegal imports of animal products into Great Britain and to review deployment of resources and react flexibly in response to changes in the pattern of risk.

There continues to be a joined-up approach across government departments on an overall communications strategy to raise awareness among international travellers of the personal import rules for food, with a great deal of publicity continuing to be undertaken inland within GB, at the border and also overseas.

These are some of the highlights of our working during the year:

EU Veterinary Week in November highlighted the programme of already ongoing work in respect of our cross-government personal imports campaign at border control points, including a stand at Heathrow airport, terminal 3 during the week which had over 5,000 visitors and was covered by BBC Breakfast news;

New TV filler “Don’t bring me back”, produced to support our overall personal imports campaign, has achieved some excellent airtime across a variety of channels with most of the transmissions going out in peak evening viewing time. It has built in value to be one of the top ten fillers of 2008-09. It has also received out of home play in locations such as surgeries and gyms;

Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) visit in November 2008—inspectors indicated that the UK has a functioning import control system and recognised further improvements made by the UK.

We will continue to monitor and assess the changing threats from around the world, and work with HMRC/UKBA and other enforcement partners to make sure that our enforcement activity at UK borders is targeted at the current risks.

Copies of the Review are available on the Defra personal food imports website (www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/illegali), and will be sent to stakeholders for information seeking their feedback. Hard copies will also be available on request.