Imports of poor quality food hitting UK pockets and health

5 October 2001

Imports of poor quality food hitting UK pockets and health

By Jeremy Hunt

SUB-STANDARD imported food, which should never be allowed into the UK, was depriving British farmers of a fair return for their produce and presenting a health risk to livestock, says shadow agriculture minister, Ann Winterton.

Speaking in Cheshire, during her first farm visit since taking up her post, Mrs Winterton pledged to maintain pressure on the government to stop cheap, low quality imports and to prioritise the promotion and clear labelling of British food.

"Unless British farmers receive a fair return for the food they produce to enable them to run viable businesses, then there is no hope.

"It is an insult to impose the strictest standards of livestock production on British farmers and then import meat, particularly poultry products, that is reared without welfare codes and fed on a diet packed with growth promoters. It is an appalling situation that must be stopped forthwith."

Mrs Winterton said the remit of the Food Standards Agency should not be restricted to UK produced food. Unless it could apply the strictest standards to imports it was doing a disservice to the consumer and was nothing more than a "toothless wonder."

Despite the devastating impact of foot-and-mouth on UK farming Mrs Winterton said the government had failed to identify the source of the outbreak.

"A full public inquiry into the cause and handling of the epidemic is essential. Only by identifying the cause can another foot-and-mouth crisis be prevented.

"British farming cannot be expected to rely on the findings of the three inquiries set up already. The outcome of these investigations into the cause and handling of the crisis will simply be a whitewash.

"It is hard to believe that the government did nothing to halt illegally imported meat even in the teeth of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Other EU countries stopped these imports immediately but the UK did nothing," she said.

Mrs Winterton intended to highlight the governments failure to "close the doors" on the potential sources of future F&M infection when the House of Commons returns later this month.

And she was concerned that the farming industry had received no clear guidelines from the government on what policy would be adopted should the UK face another F&M outbreak in the future.

"We must use everything in our armoury to prevent a reoccurrence of the wholesale slaughter of perfectly healthy animals."

Sandbach farmer Neville Thornhill described the attitude of DEFRA as a "cancer within the farming industry".

"Farmers find most of the regulations emanating from DEFRA unworkable.

"Every DEFRA form that comes through my letterbox threatens me with prosecution if I fail to comply," said Mr Thornhill. &#42

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