HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc430-1W
Mr. Levitt

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of imported animal carcases is tested for the presence of hormones. [57299]

Mr. Rooker

All EU Member States are required to have national monitoring plans to detect residues and substances in animal tissues and products, including meat, and to report the results of their monitoring to the European Commission each year. These monitoring plans apply to the production process and, as such, provide the necessary guarantees in respect of products in free circulation in the Single Market as a whole, not just in the Member State concerned. Because of these Single Market rules, checks for the presence of residues in carcases originating in other Member States are not routinely carried out in the UK.

All meat imported into the EU must originate from approved third countries. Responsibility for approving third countries rests with the European Commission, who must take account of information on matters which include legislation on the use, authorisation, distribution and marketing of substances which might be administered to livestock. Inclusion or retention on the list of approved countries is subject to the submission of acceptable monitoring plans which provide guarantees at least equivalent to those provided by EU Member States.

In addition, the European Commission's guidance on the testing of meat imported from third countries states that at least 1 per cent. of consignments which are subject to physical checks at Border Inspection Posts should be randomly sampled for residues, contaminants and bacteria such as salmonella and coliforms. For red meat, 1 per cent. of consignments subject to physical checks equates to 0.2 per cent. (i.e. 1 in 500) of all consignments. In the year to 31 August 1998, 3.7 per cent. of consignments of all products of animal origin imported into Great Britain from third countries were sampled by the local authorities responsible for Border Inspection Posts. The figures do not separately identify the numbers of checks on carcases or the number of residue checks carried out.

Mr. Levitt

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that standards of inspection of imported meat are as high as those at British abattoirs. [57305]

Mr. Rooker

All consignments of fresh meat imported into the UK, whether from other EU Member States or third countries, must have been produced in accordance with the harmonised Community rules laid down in Council Directive 64/433/EEC. Among other things, this Directive sets out the licensing, structural and veterinary supervision requirements to be applied in abattoirs, cutting plants and cold stores. Slaughterhouses in third countries have to comply with standards at least equivalent to those laid down in the Directive before they can export to the EU.

Ensuring that all Member States comply with their Community obligations in properly implementing and applying the Directive is the responsibility of the European Commission, whose Food and Veterinary Office carries out regular programmes of inspection visits to all Member States. The Food and Veterinary Office are also responsible for carrying out inspections in the third countries from which fresh meat is imported into the Community.

All consignments of fresh meat imported from third countries are subject to veterinary inspection on entering the EU to ensure that conditions of import have been complied with and to ensure that they have remained in a satisfactory condition during transport. In line with Community rules, random spot checks at destination may be carried out on consignments of fresh meat imported into the UK from other EU Member States.

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