22 October 2001
Food watchdog wants import controls

By Alistair Driver

THE Food Standards Agency has issued a series of recommendations designed to reduce the risk to consumers from imported food.

Agency officials said there had been considerable consumer concern about controls on food imports at UK ports and airports.

A paper endorsed by at an open board meeting in London on Monday (22 October) said it was unclear whether the current controls are sufficient.

As a result, board members at the meeting endorsed 10 recommendations to address the safety of food imported into the UK.

The first recommendation is that the Agency should take over from the variety of bodies currently responsible for import controls.

“The current situation is complex and can be inefficient,” the paper says.

The report recommends that 275,000 should be spent each year on the sampling and monitoring of food imports.

It says Port Health Officers should be given more power to stop passengers, open their baggage and impose spot fines if illegal food imports are found.

Imports of non-animal products should be restricted, the report says.

This would reduce the chances of illegal animal products concealed within non-animal products being imported into the UK.

Other recommendations include an electronic database for Port Health Authorities and training for Port Health Officers.

Agency official David Statham, who compiled the report, said he hoped that the recommendations could be acted on promptly.

But he warned that it could take years because some of the proposals may require changes at European Union level.

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