Written Answers. - Meat Imports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

84 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if beef or other meat is being imported for reprocessing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19490/03]

Beef and other meats are imported for further processing such as cutting and packaging in retail cuts or for inclusion in meat based food products. Ireland exports more meat and meat products than it imports. It is important that, other than the controls referred to below, no restraints be put on trade in meat.

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 all such products must be 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. They 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.