Food Law News - UK - 2001
FSA Press Release (2001/0108), 3 May 2001
ENFORCEMENT - Food Standards Agency Acts on Illegal Food Imports
The Food Standards Agency has moved swiftly to clamp down on illegal food imports and is playing a full part in government's wider consideration of illegal imports, David Statham, FSA Director of Enforcement and Food Standards stated today. The action taken by the Agency so far includes:
- a two-week programme of visits to UK ports and airports by three investigation teams to determine the scale of illegal imports that may be entering the country, and to examine the systems and checks that are in place to enforce the law. Ports and local authorities visited include Southampton, Dover, Manchester Airport, London Boroughs of Newham and Havering, Slough, Eastleigh and Stansted Airport and Tilbury. The results of the two-week programme will be presented to the Food Standards Agency Board on 9 May.
- advising the cross-government taskforce, led by MAFF, of the need to extend local authorities' powers to seize suspected illegal meat imports. The legislation (The Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations) was not clear on the powers that local authorities had to seize illegal imports found inland. Amendments to the Regulations came into force yesterday (3 May) and remedy this. The taskforce is currently looking at the wider issue of national and EU import controls;
- instructions to port health authorities and local authorities to ensure that they check for illegal imports as part of their routine inspections of imported food and food premises respectively; and
- forging a strong working relationship with enforcement authorities by maintaining a constant dialogue with port health authorities and local authorities to consider and discuss emerging issues.
David Statham, who recently visited the Border Inspection Post at Heathrow Airport to see the enforcement first-hand explained:
"The Food Standards Agency has taken the issue of illegal imports very seriously and has acted swiftly to help put in place important measures that will improve protection for consumers. The Agency's recent fact-finding and programme of visits to ports, should provide us with the information needed to decide the best way forward to address any problems with the current regime. In the meantime local authorities have been asked to check for illegal imports as part of their routine inspections of food premises, and our advice to MAFF has meant that the law on seizing suspected illegal meat imports has strengthened local authorities' powers in this area. These are important developments that will help clamp down on illegal imports."
These initiatives are part of the Agency's specific contribution to the Government's wider consideration of the current systems in place to ensure that national and EU controls on food imports are as effective as possible. Allegations of illegal imports of meat are to be investigated by a joint government task force which is led by MAFF. The task force also consists of the Food Standards Agency and representatives of enforcement authorities - the Association of Port Health Authorities, LACOTS and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, and is investigating the scale of the problems that may be posed by illegal meat imports.
Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin, heading the joint government taskforce on illegal imports, welcomed the investigations by the Food Standards Agency. She said:
" I very much welcome the work the FSA is doing on illegal food imports. This complements the work that we at MAFF are doing on the animal health side of this issue. I hope that the joint effort made by all government departments will act to prevent illegal imports and the risk of human and animal disease entering the UK."
The Food Standards Agency is responsible for matters of food safety in relation to imported foods. The Agency is responsible for (either solely or with MAFF ) for UK regulations governing food safety controls on imported foods and is responsible for advising port health authorities on checks which should be carried out on imported foods.
The Imported Food Regulations 1997 consolidate similar regulations made in 1984, and take into account the 1990 Food Safety Act and EC Single Market legislation. They contain measures for the protection of public health in relation to food products of non-animal origin entering the EU from third countries - that is, products from third countries which are not subject to the veterinary checks imposed under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations 1996 (as amended).
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