|You are in: UK|
Monday, 21 January, 2002, 14:36 GMT
Any illegal meat to declare?
Farmers want bio security beefed up as meat brought into the UK illegally is thought to be behind the foot-and-mouth epidemic. What can - and can't - be brought into the UK?
Every year tons of meat, some from countries hit by diseases such as foot-and-mouth, enters the UK illegally in freight shipments and passenger luggage.
It is thought that smuggled meat was the cause of the UK's outbreaks of foot-and-mouth 11 months ago and swine fever a few months earlier.
Not only do unwitting holidaymakers bringing back food or plants as souvenirs pose a risk, each day illegal consignments of pork, lamb, beef and goat from Africa and Asia arrive, destined for the black market.
And tons of bushmeat - rats, antelope, cows' nostrils, monkey meat, elephant, and oriental sausages - are illegally brought in to stock speciality ethnic markets.
Last year, environment health officers at London's Heathrow airport intercepted, by pure chance, a suitcase containing cooked monkeys coming in from west Africa.
Such foodstuffs can pose a grave risk - the foot-and-mouth virus, for instance, can survive in dried meat for up to six months.
All meat from outside the EU must be declared in advance and is subject to testing. But it is up to port health officers to examine every consignment arriving in the UK, and only a small number of samples are tested.
Many illegal consignments are labelled as fruit or other non-meat foodstuffs, as checks are much less stringent and these can be moved immediately from the port of entry to local warehouses.
Hefty fines for souvenirs
On Tuesday, the NFU will hold a summit on stopping illegal imports, with speakers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, customs and excise, the British Tourist Authority and the Food Standards Agency.
Currently few passengers know what they can and can't bring into the UK, despite penalties of up to £5,000 and/or two years in jail.
And in stark contrast to countries such as the US and Australia, UK airports have few warning notices spelling out what is allowed.
Bio security, too, seems to be a much lower priority than in New Zealand, for instance, where baggage is either searched or passed through x-ray machines that can detect any organic material.
As well as hi-tech searches, teams of sniffer dogs scour for plant and animal matter.
Strict such measures may be, but New Zealand has never had a foot-and-mouth outbreak whereas the UK is still reeling from the effects of last year's epidemic.
21 Jan 02 | UK
Farmers' fury at 'farcical' import rules
21 Jan 02 | UK
At a glance: NFU disease report
15 Jun 01 | UK
Illegal 'bushmeat' traders jailed
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top UK stories now:
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.
Links to more UK stories
|^^ Back to top|
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education |