AT THE start of the year, as we all know, more generous allowances were introduced for people wishing to bring alcohol into the UK from other EC countries. But do the more liberal rules apply to food, asks Shirley Albert, of Eastbourne.

'Has there been any change to the amount of fruit and vegetables you can now bring back; can you now import pork products or Parma ham? I presume you can still not import potatoes and chrysanthemums because of possible disease.'

Mrs Albert says that as the owner of a property in France, she has often either thrown away or given away to neighbours food that she knew she shouldn't bring back.

HM Customs and Excise said that policing of potatoes and chrysanthemums was not their problem: 'That's not us - that's the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries,' a spokesman said. 'I think they think we're enforcing the regulations - but we're not. Try Maff. To tell you the truth, the whole thing is confusing and I think it's all under review at the moment.'

Maff was equally sure that the whole thing was not its responsibility either: 'It's not us - it's the Department of Health. It comes under Imported Food regulations 1984.'

'It's nothing to do with us - talk to Maff,' said the Department of Health.

Given the confusion and the absence of anybody at the ports carrying out systematic checks (if you do get stopped, the sniffer dogs will be looking for Semtex or heroin rather than Maris Pipers), it appears Mrs Albert can bring back exactly what she wants.

It would be interesting to hear whether anyone has been busted for bringing in chrysanthemums or contraband Parma ham.

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