VEGA News Item

Channelling Imported Foodstuffs Through Heathrow - 03/10/2005
Movements of goods and live non-human animals through ports engage the services of local and national inspectors. The Food Standards Agency consults on improvements in integration and tighter control. Our observations follow.
Re: Consultant Feedback Questionnaire. A Review of the Administrative Arrangements for the Implementation and Conduct of Official Controls on Food and Feed Imported through London Heathrow Airport

1. Supervision, policing, and monitoring of imported and transhipped commodities throw heavy national responsibilities on local authorities at points of entry, possibly with inadequate resources to assert the strict controls needed for traceability, paper chasing, and the complications of due diligence through brokers and other merchants. Expansion of the EU requires greater reliance on border posts, and increases in trade and elaboration call for enlistment of resources befitting the challenges in serving the national interest. The integration of local and national authorities is of particular interest. We therefore applaud your efforts and draw parallels with the operations of the Meat Hygiene Service and EHOs and TSOs.

2. Our interests include the conditions of welfare and hygiene of live animals (for food production or for addition to collections or use for experimentation) and of animal-derived commodities intended for human purposes (as food, clothing, household goods etc. and, indirectly, as feeds). Highly-developed competence in methods of detection and identification are essential, and they must be reinforced by appraisals of goods on sale on the open market, especially where suspicions of illicit imports (e.g. of bushmeat) loom. Inspections of live animals and other commodities must comprehend powers to oversee, record, and penalize transporters for poor practice and conditions during the journey and at loading and unloading.

3. Threats of the carriage of zoonotic pathogens and of transmission by human passengers, either unwittingly or with illicit commercial or other malicious intent, have become an intensified problem that requires heightened warnings to arrivals and their contacts before departure. Avian flu provides a topical example. Some of these threats have parallels in imports and movements of plant-derived commodities with the botanical corollaries of zoonoses and need for good information on provenance and intelligence at a consular level of crops and conditions at points of departure.

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