Food Law News - UK - 2003

DEFRA Press Release (105/03), 25 March 2003

IMPORTED MEAT - Further action on illegal meat imports

More measures to tackle illegal imports of meat and plants have been drawn up by the government in a revised action plan.

The plan, published today, is backed by an extra £25 million over 3 years, and takes account of an assessment of the risks of foot and mouth disease from illegal imports, also published today.

From April 11, 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.

The proposed new measures include:

The illegal imports risk assessment, carried out by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and independent consultants SafetyCraft, estimates, with 90 per cent confidence:

Taking account of the relationship between the dose of the virus needed to cause infection and the susceptibility of the animals, it is estimated that the overall probability of FMD infection in Great Britain from illegal meat and meat products is one infection between 40 years and 1,100 years, or on average one infection in 130 years. This relates only to the risk from illegal imports. Other factors will contribute to the overall risk of FMD, including movements of live animals, airborne outbreaks, and transfer of virus on shoes, clothing and vehicles.

Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty said:

"The risk assessment, an extremely complex exercise, shows that there is an on-going risk from imports, although the level of risk cannot be defined with any precision. It has given us a much better indication about what produce from which regions and which routes and pathways inland carry the greatest risk. This will be important in targeting enforcement activity."

"The new arrangements with Customs and Excise will make a significant difference as they will bring to bear their resources, skills and experience in intelligence, prevention and detection of prohibited goods to help reduce the flow of illegal meat products entering the UK. This will reduce the risk of animal diseases which can cause such damage to the whole of our economy." Ministers will convene a forum of stakeholders to discuss the draft action plan before it is finalised.

The government is also publishing a supporting document summarising and commenting on the risk assessment in more detail.

The following notes are also provided:

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