Council cracks down on dodgy food importers

Illegal culinary delights seized by officers

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Ealing Council

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Sheep's head meat from Iran, dried pork pot noodles from Japan and yoghurt balls from Lebanon. These are just some of the illegal culinary delights seized by Ealing Council's environmental health officers in recent months.

Now the council is cracking down on dodgy food importers, with a new register to collect information on every importer in the borough.

Officers are currently quizzing companies and individuals on the types, origins and volumes of products they are importing. They will follow up with advice, information packs, and unannounced and pre-arranged inspections. Action will be taken against anyone caught importing illegal products and items will be seized and tested if necessary.

Councillor Will Brooks, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "Sheep's head meat from Iran may be a delicacy for some, but it's illegal to bring it into the country for consumption on British dinner tables.

Many specialty shops and local importers cater for our diverse communities and may not know they are breaking the law by bringing in food from countries outside the EU to provide their customers with a taste of home.

"Most of Ealing's big importers are well aware of food laws and have good practice, but we want to crack down on some of the smaller importers who are deliberately flouting the rules. We want to stamp out illegal food imports, to ensure our residents are eating the safe and high quality food they deserve."

This project is among many initiatives to improve community safety, in line with the council leadership's three priorities for the borough: cleaner streets, safer communities and ensuring value for money.

The highest risk items are products of animal origin, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products and honey. Most nuts and animal products from outside the European Union require certification and must come from an approved establishment in an approved country.

For example, peanuts from Egypt and China need a certificate to show they are free from a harmful mould that commonly grows on peanuts produced in those countries, while other products need to show they don't contain banned colours or preservatives. Cllr Brooks added: "Around half of all food on sale in the UK is imported. Despite border controls, some illegal imports find their way onto the shelves as a result of deliberate smuggling or due to importers' ignorance of their responsibilities. Food that comes in from outside the EU is produced under different laws and may not be up to our standards."

By law, importers must ensure that their goods are safe and legal before they are purchased from producers and imported into the UK.


October 6, 2006