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Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Call to step up illegal meat controls
Meat
Many fear illegal meat is flooding into the country
Mobile squads of inspectors could be deployed at UK ports and airports in an effort to combat the trade in illegal meat imports.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is to demand government action at its annual conference later this week.

It is widely believed last year's foot-and-mouth crisis was caused by illegally imported meat.

A squad of inspectors would aim to carry out random spot checks on passengers' luggage.

However, at the moment, there are just two sniffer dogs trained to detect illegal meat in travellers' luggage - and only at Heathrow.

When checks are carried out they often turn up thousands of kilos of illegal meat.

One flight from West Africa yielded 1,400 kilos.

Smuggled foodstuffs

Meat imports entering the EU must be declared in advance and are subject to checks by veterinary officers and sample inspection.

But many illegal consignments are labelled as fruit or other non-meat foodstuffs, for which checks are much less stringent.

The institute is demanding at least ten mobile units comprising six inspectors - targeting ports and airports.

They would be dedicated to searching baggage as well as consignments where intelligence indicates there's a risk of smuggled foodstuffs.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is understood to be seriously considering the proposal - costed at around 1.5m.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Nicola Carslaw reports
"There is concern that spot-checks on passengers' luggage are too rare"
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