BAkeeps tabs on its flights

30 March 2001

BAkeeps tabs on its flights

MEAT is smuggled on British Airways flights from Africa but special measures are in place to detect it, says a BA spokesman. "The scale of the problem is nowhere near the level faced by some West African countries. Nigeria Airways have a bigger problem than we do but they dont have our screening procedures," he says.

British Airways is working with MAFF, Health and Safety Executive, Customs and Excise and Port Health officials to minimise the problem, says the spokesman.

Small amounts of meat are occasionally smuggled into Britain but not hundreds of tonnes, says a spokesman for Ghiana Air 2000 at Heathrow. "Only small amounts of fruit and meat are involved but its not a significant problem," he says.

A spokesman for Nigeria Airways also denies that significant levels of illegal meat are imported into Britain. Virgin Atlantic said illegal meat imports were not a problem on its limited number of flights from South Africa.

More than 5.5t of prohibited products of animal original were detained after 14 flights arriving at Heathrow were searched between May and October 2000, confirms the London Borough of Hillingdon.

"We have not got the manpower to detect illegal meat imports, says Shabeg Nagra, divisional environmental health officer at Hillingdon. Current seizures are probably only the tip of the iceberg, he adds. The council is discussing the problem with MAFF and the Food Standards Agency.

Customs and Excise is aware of illegal meat imports at Heathrow but does not keep any record of the quantities intercepted and cannot comment on the risk posed, says a spokeswoman. "Detained meat is handed over to MAFF which monitors the level of interceptions," she says.

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said that illegal meat imports did not arrive in significant volumes and posed no health risks.

Despite repeated requests over more than one week, MAFF was unable to comment on claims that significant quantities of meat is smuggled through Heathrow or the risk they may pose to human and animal health.

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