Dover illegal meat seizures 'deeply worrying'
4th Jan 2024 / By Alistair Driver
Revelations that 57 tonnes of illegally imported pigmeat have been seized at the Port of Dover since 2022 are 'deeply worrying'.
In an article for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s EHN magazine, Beverley Edmondson, Port Health Manager at Dover District Council and Port Health Authority, said the large quantities of illegally imported meat being seized by Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) at the port could be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
She gave an update on the port’s progress in implementing rules introduced in September 2022 to protect the UK pig herd from African swine fever (ASF). The rules make it illegal for travellers to bring pork products weighing over 2kg into the country from the EU and European Free Trade Agreement state sunless produced to EU commercial standards.
It is estimated 90% of this illicit trade enters the UK at Dover, and Ms Edmondson told Pig World that, working closely with Border Force, DPHA staff have seized more than 57 tonnes of illegal meat since the order came in, despite ‘limited resource’. This includes 5.5 tonnes of illegal meat seized over the weekend before Christmas, alone.
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“We are seeing unprecedented quantities of illegal, non-compliant meat, unparalleled at any other point of entry,” Ms Edmondson said.
“Our experiences over the last 12 months have highlighted the scale and scope of the illegal meat trade, and why our work to remove it from the food chain is so critical. We estimate that, for every tonne of illicit meat removed, there are multiple tonnes entering GB undetected,” she said.
She suggested the work should be placed under port health authority jurisdiction, rather than Border Force, for specific high-risk locations such as Dover', and said it was ‘imperative resources are appropriately channelled and maintained to ensure we can keep this stuff out’.
NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said the revelations about the volumes of illegal meat being seized at Dover were ‘deeply worrying’.
“With ASF continuing to spread in Europe, often by human mediated routes, this highlights the very real risk to our national pig herd,” she said. “We have been calling on Government to ensure there are no further delays in introducing the Border TOM and to increase border controls for illegal meat imports as it is clear this vital work must be maintained and strengthened wherever possible.”
In a briefing to MPs, the NPA has spelled out the industry's needs:
- No further delays on checks for goods entering the UK from the EU under the Border TOM. Physical checks at ports are due to commence in April, after numerous delays.
- Improved and increased border controls for meat imports (sniffer dogs etc. at ports/airports/Eurotunnel and postal hubs). We also need better communications, including messaging at points of entry, to emphasise the risks of bringing in meat products.
- A review of APHA resource and available expertise to ensure it has the capability to respond quickly and effectively to notifiable disease outbreaks, particularly as the on-going Avian Influenza prevalence means that we could very conceivably see concurrent outbreaks of two different notifiable diseases. The 2022 Public Accounts Committee report on APHA’s Weybridge laboratory highlighted this critical issue.
- We urgently need to agree a plan for regionalisation with our trading partners to ensure that unaffected parts of the UK could still export pork in the event of an outbreak.