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BPEX and NFU applauds move on illegal meats

by 5m Editor
27 March 2003, at 12:00am

UK - News of an action plan to tackle illegal meat imports is just what the industry wanted to hear says British Pig Executive Chairman Stewart Houston.

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Defra's plan is backed by an extra 325million over 3 years, and takes account of an assessment of the risks of foot and mouth disease from illegal imports.

Customs and Excise will take responsibility for anti-smuggling controls on illegal imports of meat and other animal products imported directly from non-EU countries at ports and airports.

Stewart said: "This is good news for the pig industry and I acknowledge the Government has listened to the concerns we highlighted and has acted upon them.

"I am particularly pleased at the move to put all responsibility in one area together with the advice package for travellers which is something that has been missing until now."

Stewart applauded the move to set up a stakeholder group to discuss the draft action plan and said he looked forward to taking a positive role in the discussions.

He said: "We will be seeking to ensure not only that the action plan is very robust but also the risk assessment will stand up to close scrutiny.

"In the short term, we would want to see Government activities such as the continued disposal of catering waste in landfill, integrated into the action plan.

"In the longer term, the industry is engaged in constructive discussion with the Government on the proposed animal health and welfare strategy. It is vitally important that such valuable initiatives are integrated with these new controls on imports."

Illegal imports action plan

An action plan against illegal imports of meat and plants published March 25 is the beginning of a comprehensive strategy for protecting Britain from disease for years, says the NFU.

The NFU said the development of the government's revised draft action plan was a significant improvement on the situation before the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, when little notice appeared to be taken of illegal meat imports.

Specific pledges such as transferring powers and responsibilities to Customs & Excise, placing adverts on airline tickets, providing leadership to drive EU-wide improvements and creating national strike teams within Customs & Excise are all excellent news.

But the NFU questioned whether the proposed funding of 36 million a year is adequate.

NFU Food Standards Chairman Michael Seals said: "We have pushed very hard for the government to take the threat of illegal imports seriously and this action plan is good news.

"But the current funding plan means local authority and port health enforcement officers being asked to deliver a step-change in border and inland checks on a tight budget."

The need for a robust action plan was underlined by the findings of a risk assessment on illegal meat imports that was also published today.

The Veterinary Laboratories Agency assessment estimates with 90 per cent certainty that the amount of illegal meat coming into the UK every year is nearly 7,500 tonnes, three per cent of total meat imports.

Such high levels of illegal meat will carry disease risks not only towards animals but the population as a whole, highlighting the need to drastically improve our port controls, a fact the NFU has highlighted for the last two years.

NFU food standards chairman Michael Seals said: "It is vital that risks continue to be investigated so that we can measure just how effective new controls are"

Source: National Pig Association and National Farmers Union - 25th March 2003

5m Editor