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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Vets warn of terrorist food threat
Meat in a butchers shop
There are concerns that not all imports are checked
A leading British vet has warned that there is a terrorist threat to food supplies because of lax controls on imports.

British Veterinary Assocation vice-president David Tyson said events in the US point to the need for adequate checks and labelling on every consignment coming into the country.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It would seem all things are possible now... it becomes even more important now than it was before that we know exactly the source of these imports."

Mr Tyson said he was particularly concerned about meat coming from outside the EU, whose origins can be difficult to verify.

"When you're faced with a refrigerated lorry or a container at a dockside full of meat and meat products, and you have paper with it that comes from the Far East... you have a problem I think in verifying precisely where that has been sourced originally."

We need every consignment of imported meat to be inspected at the point of entry

Kevin Hawkins
The UK imports about half of its food, including a quarter of its meat.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) stresses there is no evidence of a specific threat to the UK, but it has acknowledged that controls may need to be strengthened.

During the foot-and-mouth outbreak port health authorities were already warning that consignments of fruit and vegetables regularly passed through ports and airports unchecked.

An internal FSA document produced before 11 September and seen by the BBC warned that airports were a soft target for smugglers, as consignments often went uninspected.

Checks necessary

Many security analysts believe current controls are stretched to their limits and the supermarkets, among others, want the loopholes plugged.

But Safeway spokesman Kevin Hawkins said there was no need for alarm, insisting: "There is no cause for anyone to panic, there is no cause for hysteria.

"We know what the problem is and we know how to apply a solution. We just need the resources.

"We need every consignment of imported meat to be inspected at the point of entry both in the UK and Europe.

Disease fears

"That must happen regardless of whether there is a terrorist threat or not."

Mr Tyson said the size of any such operation would present difficulties.

"The logistics are very difficult. You go to a dockside and see containers stacked four or five high.

"It is very difficult to check what is in those containers but we've got to try and make a better job of it, otherwise we lay ourselves open again to disease coming into the country."

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
on the need for adequate controls on imported food
David Tyson, British Veterinary Association
"We have to be very careful about knowing where the food comes from"

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See also:

13 Oct 01 | Health
Doctors given anthrax advice
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
26 Sep 01 | Health
NHS plans germ war response
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Anthrax fears played down
14 Oct 01 | Americas
New US anthrax cases emerge
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
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