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Food (EU Border Security)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with farming Ministers from other EU countries on ensuring that EU borders are secure with regard to the importation into the EU of food products; and if she will make a statement. [13199]

Jim Knight: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, has regular opportunities to talk to her EU colleagues about a wide range of issues during the meetings of the Agriculture Council.

A comprehensive import regime exists in European Community law to ensure that food of animal origin does not pose a health risk. Products such as meat, eggs and dairy products must come from approved establishments in approved countries and must be accompanied by official health certificates. Products may only be imported into the EU via approved Border Inspection Posts where veterinary checks are carried out to make sure they comply with the import conditions set out in law.

Imported food, including food not of animal origin, must meet food safety and food standards requirements equivalent to those for UK-produced food, and can be subject to checks on the basis of risk assessment by local food authorities at UK ports and inland to ensure they comply.
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Emergency safeguard measures to further restrict or control imports may be taken where there is an outbreak of disease in an exporting country, or other circumstances likely to present a serious public or animal health risk.

The importation of products of meat and dairy products by individual travellers in their personal luggage is judged to be a potential route by which animal disease could be introduced into the European Union. Following pressure by the Government, new, tighter EU rules were introduced in 2003 effectively banning personal imports of meat and dairy products (including bushmeat). The Government have increased the level of resource available to combat the illegal importation of such products.

Food Miles

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she plans to take to reduce food miles. [14169]

Jim Knight: Defra commissioned a study to assess the validity of 'food miles' as an indicator of sustainability. This independent study by AEA Technology, was published on 15 July 2005.

The report shows that in general higher levels of vehicle activity lead to higher environmental impacts. But it is not a simple matter of so-called 'food miles'. The mode, timing, location and efficiency of food transport is important as well as the distance. Copies of the report, can be found on the Defra website at

The Government are working with the food industry to reduce the environmental and social impacts of food transportation by encouraging widespread adoption of best practice and by measuring performance. It has consulted on proposals in the draft Food Industry Sustainability Strategy, developed with stakeholders, that the sector prepare by 2006 a plan for achieving a 20 per cent. reduction in the environmental and social costs of food transport by about 2012.

Freedom of Information Act

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests have been answered by the Department; and in how many cases (a) information was wholly exempted, (b) information was partly exempted and (c) the requests were answered in full. [14960]

Jim Knight: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. and learned Friend, the Minister for Constitutional Affairs on 12 September 2005, Official Report, column 2248W.

Landfill (Former Foodstuffs)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether it is her Department's policy to impose a complete ban on former foodstuffs being sent to landfill from 1 January 2006; [14223]
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(2) if she will list the occasions when her Department gave guidance to representatives of waste management companies in connection with the disposal of former foodstuffs to landfill from 1 January 2006; [14224]

(3) when her Department first learnt that the European Commission would not impose a complete ban on former foodstuffs being sent to landfill from 1 January 2006; [14225]

(4) whether she supports the decision of the European Commission not to impose a complete ban on former foodstuffs being sent to landfill from 1 January 2006; [14226]

(5) whether her Department made (a) oral representations and (b) written representations to the European Commission not to impose a complete ban on former foodstuffs being sent to landfill from 1 January 2006. [14227]

Mr. Bradshaw: The original intention of the Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) No. 1774/2002 was to impose a complete ban on former foodstuffs containing products of animal origin being sent to landfill from 1 January 2006. However, on 20 May this year, prior to a working group meeting in Brussels on 23 May, officials from my Department along with those in other member states received papers from the European Commission indicating a change in the Commission's approach to implementing the ban. Subsequently, at the meeting on 23 May, the Commission announced its intention to allow pre-treated former foodstuffs that member states believe do not pose a risk to animal or public health to continue to go to landfill, under the control of the EU Landfill Directive rather than the Animal By-Products Regulation. The Commission has now tabled a draft amending Regulation to bring this into effect. The draft covers former foodstuffs that are not considered safe to be fed to livestock but which can safely be disposed of to landfill or treated in an alternative system; and, those that can be fed to livestock (bread, pasta, etc) or be disposed of to landfill. The measure does not apply to raw meat and raw fish which are already banned from disposal to landfill and which must be disposed of in accordance with the Regulation i.e. by rendering, incineration, composting or treatment by biogas.

The Department did not ask the Commission to reverse the complete ban on former foodstuffs being sent to landfill. However, in the light of discussions with a variety of parties, we drew the Commission's attention to the difficulties they had with compliance, and particularly those that small retailers anticipated. We suggested to the Commission that these difficulties could be lessened if the requirements for commercial documentation and transport were brought more into line with existing environmental controls, and if alternative treatments were to be permitted providing livestock were not able to have access to the treated product. Nevertheless, we support the principle that as far as the Animal By-Products Regulation is concerned the ban on landfill should apply only to those former foodstuffs which present a risk to animal and public health. The Government is committed to reducing the UK's reliance on landfill, in order to reduce its environmental impact and because landfilling is a missed opportunity to recover value from waste. Therefore the
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Government will continue to adopt measures that will progressively discourage the landfilling of wastes including former foodstuffs.

The Department has given regular guidance on the disposal of former foodstuffs during the course of business to waste management companies and there is detailed guidance on the current disposal rules on the Defra website. In addition, throughout the course of this year officials have held a number of meetings with the waste management sector on the disposal of former foodstuffs. Most recently, officials met a number of waste management companies and the Environment Services Association on 13 April, the UK Renderers' Association on 10 May and 21 June, the Composting Association on 27 May and the Regulated Incinerator Operators on 21 June.

Opinion Surveys

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) subject matter and (b) dates were of opinion survey research undertaken by the Department and its agencies in the last 12 months; if she will place copies of the results of each survey in the Library; which companies were used in conducting the research; and how much each was paid. [14811]

Jim Knight: Defra and its agencies have not undertaken any opinion survey research in the last 12 months.

Telephone Inquiries

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what facilities her Department has to deal with telephone inquiries in (a) Welsh, (b) Scots Gaelic and (c) Irish Gaelic. [14696]

Jim Knight: Telephone inquiries received in Welsh are dealt with in accordance with Defra's Welsh Language Scheme which came into force in October 2002. This requires operators in offices dealing with the public in Wales to answer calls bilingually and to have a system whereby calls in Welsh taken by staff who cannot speak Welsh can be transferred to a Welsh-speaker. Defra does not currently have facilities for dealing with telephone inquiries in Scots or Irish Gaelic.

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