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Country News - 2002

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Welcome for food imports initiative
Wednesday 10 July

FARMERS have welcomed a new Government drive to stop holiday-makers bringing back to the UK foodstuffs or seeds which could bring with them disease.

Many countries have draconian laws against such unofficial imports, particularly the USA, which regularly refuses entry to food "smugglers" - and even sends some to jail.

In Britain, such controls have been notoriously lax but following last year's foot and mouth disaster - whose origins may never be known, as the Government has admitted - measures are being taken to tighten them up.

First step was the introduction of a new information leaflet of advice for returning holidaymakers with a theme of "When in doubt, keep it out." It was launched on Tuesday be celebrity chef Antony Worrall-Thompson.

The NFU said the leaflet was a "welcome and visible sign" that the Government is acting on the NFU's calls for more effective implementation of border controls.

NFU Food Standards Chairman Michael Seals described the DEFRA leaflet's core message as a useful reminder for holidaymakers that restrictions are in place.

But he said the food and plant allowances remain complex: an EU-wide ban on personal imports would be the simplest way to end the confusion among the travelling public over restrictions.

He added: "Foot and mouth demonstrated just how exposed this country is to potentially devastating disease and pests that attack our native crops and plants."

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