MEP Jim Allister has expressed concerns over the rigour of health checks carried out prior to the lifting of an import ban on poultrymeat from China.

Imports of poultrymeat from China to the EU were banned in 2002 because of avian flu. However, in July 2008, the EU agreed to re-admit treat-heated poultrymeat from Shandong Province, on the basis that it now met EU health and welfare standards.

Against this background, Mr Allister has been pressing Commission vice-president Siim Kallas as to just how rigorous the EU had been in allowing itself to be persuaded to re-start imports from China.

While Commissioner Kallas stressed that public health rules applying to these exports from China ensured “an equivalent level of protection” to those in the EU, there are concerns over the checks made.

“It turns out that exports to the EU have been recommenced on the basis of just three fact-finding missions, the most recent being back in 2006,” said Mr Allister.

“Here we are opening our market in the latter half of 2008 on the basis of stale inspections and with no further inspection intended until 2009. This is not what I believe EU consumers would expect,” he said.

“But when I pressed the Commissioner further I was disappointed to get no answer to three critical questions. First, imports are only supposed to come from plants in Shandong Province – how do we know that the imported meat in fact all originates there? Second, will there be the same ratio of production tested for EU health standards as would apply within the EU in our own plants, or are we relying on self-certification?

“Finally, for welfare, will the same requirements be placed on China as we are imposing on our own producers?”

“Sadly, the Commissioner was unable to answer these questions, suggesting to me that once more, with echoes of what happened with Brazilian beef, we are going down the road of allowing imports without them transparently meeting the same rigorous requirements that we place on our own produce. This is unfair to both producers and consumers in the EU,” said Mr Allister.