Shadow claims anti-import actions totally inadequate

26 April 2002

Shadow claims anti-import actions totally inadequate

By Isabel Davies

AN inquiry by MPs will reveal that government measures against illegal meat imports are "totally inadequate", shadow minister for agriculture Ann Winterton has predicted.

The House of Commons rural affairs select committee is to investigate whether enough has been done to curb illegal imports, which many people believe triggered last years foot-and-mouth crisis and swine fever in pigs.

The committee of MPs will also look at practices and policies adop-ted by other countries and compare them with the UK position.

But Mrs Winterton told farmers weekly: "I think [the inquiry] will conclude the action plan is totally inadequate. It has been 14 months since the outbreak of F&M and no meaningful action has been taken to prevent it happening again."

Half a tonne of illegally imported meat is coming in on every flight from some high-risk countries, one industry insider told BBC Farming Today on Monday (Apr 22).

Clive Lawrence, managing director of Ciel Logistics, which handles meat imported into Heathrow Airport, said with no-one to do the stopping, the problem will continue.

A government action plan, published in March, set out a series of measures to cut down on illegal imports of meat and plant products, including giving enforcement officers extra powers to search baggage at airports and raising awareness of the dangers posed by personal meat imports.

NFU food science adviser Beth Hogben said the inquiry would give the union an opportunity to highlight areas where it believes more work needs to be done.

"Although the government published an action plan there remains a number of issues that need to be addressed and this is one way of doing that."

The union will call for greater co-ordination between government departments, in particular DEFRA, the Food Standards Agency and Customs and Excise. It will also urge MPs to look at whether steps can and should be taken at an EU level to help curb the problem.

The cross-party group of MPs will take oral evidence in June. Written submissions, not exceeding 5000 words, should be submitted by May 17, preferably in Word or WordPerfect format on computer disk or by e-mail to &#42

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