§ Chris Grayling
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the Food Standards Agency has taken since February in response to the use of dangerous chemicals to kill bushmeat in West Africa prior to its illegal importation into the United Kingdom.
§ Ms Blears
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is aware of the allegations that this practice takes place, however they have no evidence to suggest that such meat has been brought into the country. However, the FSA advice is that illegally imported meat such as bushmeat which may be contaminated with dangerous chemicals, will have avoided official controls at its country of origin and on entry to the European Union designed to verify compliance with food safety standards and should not be consumed. In response to concerns about illegal imports of bushmeat and other foods, the FSA has, since February, been drawing up a work programme to take forward a step change in the delivery and co-ordination of local authority enforcement of imported food controls at seaports, airports and at `inland' UK local authorities.
The FSA is also working closely with other Government Departments and welcomes action being taken by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which has responsibility for measures against illegal imports of all meat and other animal products, to tackle illegal imports. Defra has published, on 25 March 2003, a draft update of the Government action plan for 2003–04.
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise will take responsibility for anti-smuggling measures including illegal imports of bushmeat, at seaports and airports from 11 April 2003 in England.