Food Safety (Imports)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:39 am on 18th December 2008.

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Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party 11:39 am, 18th December 2008

To ask the Scottish Government what procedures are in place to monitor the safety of food products imported from European countries and the rest of the world. (S3O-5348)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Harmonised measures exist to control the safety of food produced in establishments within the European community and for the control of imports.

Only food products imported from outside the European community are considered imports and are therefore subject to imported food controls. A range of measures is in place to monitor the safety of food imported from outside the European community.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party

What is the role of the Food Standards Agency, environmental health departments, importers and retailers in monitoring imported foodstuffs, particularly the level of contaminants in imported meat products?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The role of the Food Standards Agency in respect of controls of imported food from non-European Union countries is to give enforcement support and advice and undertake audits of enforcement activity with respect to local authorities' food safety and food standards controls on imported food. The environmental health services of the local authorities that have responsibility for food safety and food standards check imported foods at points of entry. Veterinary officers employed by local authorities carry out veterinary checks on products of animal origin presented at border inspection posts. Local authorities are also responsible for inland checks.

I am happy to write to the member to give a more detailed response to the rest of his question about the role of importers and retail outlets.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Following my question to the First Minister last week, has the cabinet secretary or the First Minister had any further discussions about the labelling of processed food with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the UK ministers? If so, will she tell Parliament what plans are in place to address the anomalous position whereby food imported from other countries can, by being processed here in the UK, be labelled as British thereafter?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Imported food should, of course, meet at least the equivalent required public health standard as food produced within the European community. It is important to make that point. The labelling issue to which the member referred is subject to on-going discussions among the Food Standards Agency, me and Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. We are happy to keep the member updated about progress on the matter.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

What is the Scottish Government doing to respond to the on-going concerns expressed by many farmers and crofters about beef imports in particular?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

We are conscious of farmers' concerns and continue to have a dialogue with that sector about its concerns. However, I reiterate that imported food has to meet at least the equivalent required public health standard as food produced within the European community. I want to ensure that that point is made. Imported foodstuffs can be subject to documentary, identity and physical checks. As I said previously, I am happy to keep the member informed about the measures that we are developing and, of course, to continue to listen to the farming community's concerns.