Food Law News - UK - 2005

FSA Consultation Letter, 4 July 2005

IMPORTED FOOD - Improving imported food controls at Heathrow

The FSA is seeking comments on the Review of the Administrative Arrangements for the Implementation and Conduct of Official Controls on Food and Feed imported through London Heathrow Airport . The Review was conducted by an external consultant on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and makes some key recommendations to improve the public health controls in place with regard to food safety. Responses are requested by: 30 September 2005

Consultation details

The key proposals are:

The review was undertaken as part of the FSA's response to consumer concern about UK controls on food imports at seaports and airports, and whether or not those controls are sufficient to ensure the safety of imported food in terms of public, animal and plant health. Although an animal health issue and not a public health risk in food safety terms, this concern was highlighted by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and the view that this may have been caused by an illegally imported animal product.

Following the 2001 FMD outbreak the FSA Board adopted a 10-point plan to address concerns about the implementation of controls on the importation of food and feed into the UK from third countries. The report included a commitment to 'improve local authority administration for Heathrow'.

The Cabinet Office Machinery of Government Secretariat also conducted a wide-ranging review of 'The Organisation of the Government's Controls of Imports of Animals, Fish, Plants and Their Products'. The review identified problems at Heathrow Airport relating to inspection and movement of legitimate trade in animal products and foods off airport to enhanced remote transit sheds. This may provide a potential route for products of animal origin to be smuggled in under other descriptions of food not of animal origin or other categories of consignments.

With forthcoming implementation of EU Hygiene Regulations and Official Controls of Food and Feed Regulations (due to come into force in January 2006 and January 2007) this is an opportunity to review how the new imported food requirements could be implemented in a practical way at Heathrow Airport. It could also identify any additional measures or procedures needed to ensure appropriate protection of public health.

The remit of the review was to identify how imported food controls are carried out, the problems associated with enforcement, and to identify good practice and make suggestions for improved new ways of working.

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