To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(1) what restrictions are placed on the import of meat from countries in which foot and mouth disease is endemic;
(2) in which countries foot and mouth disease is endemic; and from which of those countries the importation of (a) carcases, (b) raw meat and (c) cooked meat is permitted.
Community legislation does permit the importation of meat and meat products from certain countries where foot and mouth disease is endemic but only where the disease is restricted to specific areas. Imports are only permitted from parts of the country that are free of disease or under conditions that ensure the meat does not represent any health risk. These provisions are in line with the recommendations of the Northumberland Committee following the 1967 outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK.
All meat and meat products imported from third countries must be accompanied by veterinary certification, which includes confirmation that the meat is derived from animals which have been subjected to an ante-mortem inspection during the 24 hours prior to slaughter in order to confirm, among other things, that the animal shows no signs of foot and mouth disease.
If there is an outbreak of disease likely to present a risk to human or animal health such as foot and mouth disease, Community legislation allows us to ban imports of meat from all, or parts, of the country concerned. Recent examples include Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Swaziland, Uruguay and Zimbabwe, and within the EU, France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
All meat and meat products imported into the UK from third countries must enter at designated UK Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) where they are subject to veterinary inspections. All consignments are subject to documentary and identity checks and at least 20 per cent. of consignments undergo physical checks. These ensure import conditions are met and that the products remain in a satisfactory condition. They are carried out by Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) employed by the local authority in which the BIP is located.