§ Yvette Cooper
[holding answer 31 January 2002]: All imports of products of animal origin, such as meat and dairy products, to the United Kingdom from countries outside of the European Union are subject to harmonised EU import controls. All such imports must enter the UK through designated border inspection posts where they undergo documentary and identity checks and a proportion are subject to physical checks. Food which is not of animal origin, such as fruit and vegetables, from countries outside of the EU is subject to import controls under UK national legislation and is subject to checks on the basis of risk assessment by local port health authorities and local food authorities at the point of entry to the UK.
Food coming to the UK from other EU member states is in free circulation within the EU and is not subject to routine checks at UK ports. Such food can be subject to import checks where there is information to support such action.
Once admitted to the UK, all imported food may be subject to the same checks at retail level by local authorities in the same way as those applicable to UK produced food.
The Board of the Food Standards Agency recently approved a report containing a number of proposals aimed at improving the co-ordination of enforcement action on imports and the effectiveness of inspection of import controls. Agency officials are exploring these proposals further and will report back to the board.