Vets criticise government decision to delay import checks on meat

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised concerns about the decision by government to delay the start of compulsory checks on imports of meat and animals from the EU. 

Last week it was announced export health certification for imported animal products will now not be required until 1 October 2021, while physical checks at the border will not take place on a range of agri-food products until 1 January 2022.  Physical checks on live animals will now not take place until March 2022. These will be carried out at Border Control Posts.

The previous Border Operating Model dictated that the new but limited Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) controls, which have been applied to goods imported from the EU including live animals from 1 January 2021, would be expanded from 1 April 2021 to cover administrative requirements. 

BVA President James Russell said the decision could weaken the UK’s defence against animal diseases. 

“While these changes may provide some welcome breathing space for industry, they are being introduced at a late stage when vets have been working hard to make preparations for a new raft of requirements being introduced in only three weeks’ time,” he said.

“At a time when there are ongoing concerns about veterinary capacity, the sector really needs as much notice as possible to adjust to new demands and shifting timetables. It’s essential that we now use this additional time to put clear plans in place.

“We are also seeking reassurances that delays to import checks will not impact on our ability to protect the UK from disease incursion. These checks form a line of defence to help protect against diseases not currently present in the UK, such as African Swine Fever. This is particularly important as the UK currently does not have access to the range of EU disease surveillance and cooperation systems.”

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