FARMERS' leaders yesterday issued a guarded welcome to Government plans to tighten controls on the import of foreign foods- but questioned if enough funds are being made available to make the new plans effective.
Imported food is widely believed to have been responsible for the catastrophic foot and mouth outbreak two years ago and the Government this week announced a £6 million action plan to tighten controls.
This includes handing over control to Customs and Excise from health officials in port and airport towns, which was described as "excellent news" by the National Farmers' Union.
But the union also questioned whether available funds were adequate.
Food Standards Chairman Michael Seals said: "We have pushed very hard for the government to take the threat of illegal imports seriously and this action plan is good news.
"But the current funding plan means local authority and port health enforcement officers being asked to deliver a step-change in border and inland checks on a tight budget."
The need for a robust action plan was underlined by the findings of a risk assessment on illegal meat imports that was also published this week.
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency assessment estimates with 90 per cent certainty that the amount of illegal meat coming into the UK every year is nearly 7,500 tonnes, three per cent of total meat imports.
Such high levels of illegal meat will carry disease risks not only towards animals but the population as a whole, highlighting the need to drastically improve our port controls, a fact the NFU has highlighted for the last two years.