Article copied from the Veterinary Record for June 9 2007
Shortcomings identified in UK import controls
THERE are shortcomings in the UK's system of import controls for animals and animal products, according to an EU report.
Inspectors from the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) examined UK import controls on live animals and animal products at five border inspection posts (BIPs) in November 2006 to monitor the country's compliance with EU requirements.
The resulting report, published in March this year, found that 'there is a largely functioning import control system in place', but that there remain 'generalised shortcomings in relation to the implementation of the control system'.
In particular, the report said: 'Not all live animals are checked in BIPs as required (rabies-susceptible animals are placed directly in quarantine without being presented to a BIP for checks), and veterinary checks on some species are carried out by technical staff instead of official veterinarians.'
'The lack of a centralised, riskbased sampling and monitoring plan has compromised the import control system, leaving the increased potential for entry into free circulation of consignments which do not comply with EU requirements.'Shortcomings in the performance of veterinary checks and the veterinary decision on the consignment were 'potentially serious', it said, and it attributed some of this to lack of clear guidance and training of BIP staff.
A previous inspection in January and February 2005 had found 'gaps and delays in transposition and application of the relevant EU legislation' and warned that consequently 'the system cannot be regarded as fully effective'.
The FVO inspectors visited Gatwick, Belfast, Manchester and Glasgow airports and Belfast port. Manchester and Glasgow airports were singled out for 'significant deficiencies'. Gatwick airport was also identified as not in compliance with the regulations, but the report noted that new plans for the BIP were awaiting implementation later this year.
Although not visited in the inspection, Heathrow airport was singled out for particular criticism in the report due to its lack of action to correct longstanding problems identified by earlier inspections.
The report said that immediate action should be taken to correct Heathrow's shortcomings and warned that the deadline for rectifying them had already expired.
The UK responded to the report later the same month.
In response to the criticism that rabies-susceptible animals avoid BIP checks because they go straight to quarantine, DEFRA said that, although it was reviewing the control procedures, it believed current requirements did 'not present an increased risk compared to entry at a BIP'.
DEFRA also said that a draft national monitoring plan for all BIPs would be finalised by the end of June, that regular checks were now made on all live animal BIPs, that training records were now centralised and that vets were encouraged to update their training every two years.
It added that reviews were underway to examine criticisms that had not already been addressed.
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