Memorandum submitted by the British Retail Consortium (F12)
I am responding to your request for input into the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry into illegal meat imports.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) represents a whole range of retailers, including large multiples, departmental stores and independents, selling a wide selection of products through centre of town, out of town and rural environments.
BRC is disturbed at the number of reports that appear in the media that highlight the illegal imports of meat and plant products. This trade not only threatens public health and the domestic farming industry, it also has the effect of reducing consumer confidence in the legitimate imports of many food products.
The major food retailers go to great lengths to ensure that their imported products meet the same exacting criteria that they demand for all their own label products. All factories and processing plants at home and abroad that supply own label food products are either inspected by the individual retailer or by an accredited third party body. The majority of third party inspections are carried out against the BRC Technical Standard for the Suppliers of Retailer Branded Food Products. This Technical Standard sets out requirements for best practice in all areas of product safety and legality.
We await with interest the publication of the results of the risk assessment exercise that is currently being undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and would support proposals for increased controls if these are based on risk assessment. While BRC would like to see "joined up government" applied to the different agencies that police the airports as well as the ports, the priority for Government action should be illegal imports of bulk consignments of meat, regardless of the high profile the press has given to the personal imports issue.
15 May 2002