Written Answers. - Food Imports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has satisfied himself that all meat or food imports are subject to the same husbandry traceability and processing requirements that are applicable here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19493/03]

Under the Single Market there is free circulation of goods within the EU but there are uniform EU wide controls on the production and trade in meat and food based on animal products. Under Community law it is a requirement that the animal product material has been sourced from an approved establishment. Import of meat and foods based on animal products must also be accompanied to its destination by a commercial document or health certificate that bears the identity of the establishment from which the beef has been despatched.

Under EU harmonised rules, imports into the EU from third countries must have been sourced in premises and in countries which are approved by the European Commission and which are subject to veterinary audits by the EU's food and veterinary office. In addition, such imports are subject to checks on import laid down in harmonised rules prescribed at European level, and must be accompanied by veterinary health certification from the authorities in the country of export.

Consignments coming from third countries must be imported through an approved border inspection post upon first entry into the EU. An official health certificate conforming to model certificates set down in EU legislation must be presented. Goods failing to comply with the veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination and, if necessary, they may be destroyed. Once these products have met all of the required conditions, they are released for free circulation within the European Community. Once goods are in free circulation within the Community normal market competition rules apply.

Vegetables are subject to common standards that apply throughout the EU to both domestic and imported product. In the case of imports of certain vegetables from third countries phytosanitary certificates are required so as to ensure compliance with plant health requirements. My Department carries out inspections regularly of both domestic and imported vegetables to ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements.