23 August 2001
Tourists targeted in import action

By Isabel Davies

A GROUP of farmers met at Gatwick Airport on Thursday (23 August) to highlight concerns about lax controls on food imports in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Almost half the tourists returning from abroad could be carrying illegal food imports – and with it the risk of diseases like foot-and-mouth, claims a survey.

The survey, conducted by the National Farmers Union, suggests that half of all international travellers have no idea what food they may bring into the UK.

Nearly 20% of people questioned said they thought there was no problem in bringing cartons of milk back from Florida, the survey found.

One third believed they could bring back potted plants from South Africa.

The union responded to its own findings by sending a delegation of farmers to hand out leaflets to tourists at the airport.

NFU food standards committee chairman, Michael Seals, said: “International travel is a boon of our time but it carries a host of hidden dangers.”

He added: “Farmers are incensed, while we are battling foot-and-mouth, it seems nothing has been done to close the door on imported diseases.”

A BBC TV programme screened this the week revealed that meat, which is potentially harmful to human and animal health, can easily be imported.

NFU Scotland president Jim Walker said he was horrified by the 4×4 programme which showed illegal imports coming through airports and ports.

He added: “It made my stomach churn to see that six months after foot-and-mouth … the government has still not got any control over this illegal trade.”

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage