Virtually no checks on smuggling of meat

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The Independent Online

More than 200 consignments of illegally imported meat are intercepted every month on their way into Britain, it emerged yesterday.

More than 200 consignments of illegally imported meat are intercepted every month on their way into Britain, it emerged yesterday.

With the current epidemic believed to be triggered by foot-and-mouth infected meat smuggled into the country, the association of Port Health Authorities called for new laws to tackle the problem. Its spokes-man yesterday warned that while 200 seizures were made a month, that was just the "tip of the iceberg".

The port health authorities (PHAs), which are responsible for infectious disease control at Britain's ports and airports, said new laws are now needed because no specific government agency is in charge of checking for smuggled meat.

"We really don't know the full extent of the problem," said Mike Young, spokesman for the association of PHAs. "We do know that it [illegal meat product] is found in sea and airports concealed in consignments of fruit and vegetables and in passenger baggage, but we suspect that what we find is only the tip of the iceberg."

Meat products intercepted include cow-hide, bush meat and dried lamb. Seizures include small amounts for gifts or personal use and larger quantities of meat, which the smuggler plans to sell on.

Mr Young said: "Some agency ought to be responsible for carrying out the checks on passengers coming into the country from high-risk countries, whether that is the Ministry of Agriculture, Customs or the PHAs.

"At the moment there are no checks carried out at all. I don't believe Customs have the legal powers to search for illegal meat imports and I am not aware that anybody else has either.

"I'm sure that Customs could - whether or not they have the resources and manpower to do so at present, I don't know, but I am sure they physically could do it."

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