DEFRA IS stepping up its public awareness campaign to combat illegal food imports with the introduction of a mobile information unit which will travel around the country.

A new TV advert has also been produced, advertisements will be placed in travel magazines and an in-flight video will be shown on flights in and out of the UK.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty also announced on Mon (Oct 25) that leaflets in many different languages will be distributed in various ethnic communities.

In addition, a website has been launched which gives information about what kinds of products are banned from various countries all over the world.

“This campaign is aimed at ordinary people who go travelling but are unaware of breaking the law when they bring certain foodstuffs into the UK from outside of the EU,” said Lord Whitty.

He made it clear that there is an absolute ban on meat and dairy products, regardless of whether these are processed foods or not. There are also restrictions on plants.

“It may appear trivial and funny to some that we are targeting personal food imports, but this is actually a very serious issue.

“Pests and diseases may be brought into the country with grave consequences for agriculture and for public health,” Lord Whitty said.

He added that there will be an increase in staff allocated to undertaking controls at airports and other ports of entry into the country.

Without quantifying the increase, Lord Whitty said that £25m is being spent on control activity.

“I would urge everyone to check the rules before they leave the UK. If you are caught breaking them, then you may face long delays, prosecution and a fine,” said Lord Whitty.