Potentially illegal meat and eggs have been discovered after officials stopped a vehicle in England.
The suspected illegally imported products were discovered in a white van going from Romania into Great Britain, via the Port of Dover.
The discovery was made during multi-agency spot checks of vehicles, in Lowestoft, in early February, with details just released.
East Suffolk Council’s food and safety team investigated the contents of the vehicle following a request from Suffolk County Council trading standards colleagues.
The van contained meat, which was mainly pork, eggs, and other food, which the defendants claimed was for personal consumption. Officials also found weighing scales and a refrigerator.
African swine fever risk
It is against the law to personally bring pork or pork products weighing more than two kilograms into Great Britain unless they are produced to the EU’s commercial standards. This does not apply to commercial imports.
Occupants of the vehicle voluntarily surrendered all products that were taken to an incineration plant for destruction.
“Since September, strict controls restricting the movement of pork and pork products into Great Britain have been in place to help safeguard Britain’s pigs from the threat of African swine fever. This was great work by all involved to take this imported food out of circulation and remove any possible risks to animal and human health,” said Mary Rudd, of East Suffolk Council.
Andrew Reid, from Suffolk County Council, said the incident is a reminder of the threat of African swine fever (ASF) if care is not taken to stop it. The disease can be fatal to pigs but does not affect humans.
“Food crime and fraud can take many forms, affecting food quality, authenticity, and, most importantly, safety. In addition to posing a danger to public health, food crime undermines legitimate businesses and the food industry’s reputation,” he said.
Evidence from inspections at UK ports suggests there are vehicles illegally bringing pork meat into the country from some parts of the EU affected by ASF. A few of these involved large quantities of pork products, some of which appear to be home-slaughtered and arrive from an undisclosed origin as a non-commercial import, with poor levels of biosecurity and food hygiene, according to an assessment by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Romanian meat controls
In late January, the European Commission was made aware of poor traceability records and an absence of labeling on a variety of foods going to Northern Ireland from Romania and Moldova.
Earlier in the month, more than 6 tons of frozen beef were seized in Romania following a control action.
Inspectors of the National Veterinary Sanitary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) and the Veterinary Sanitary and Food Safety Directorates (DSVSA) from Ilfov, Bucharest, and Giurgiu carried out an operation on the marketing of imported frozen meat. They targeted 29 cold storage warehouses authorized for trade in the three counties.
Officers looked for illegal practices, such as freezing meat for which the manufacturer put on the label that it should be sold refrigerated. Freezing is sometimes carried out close to the end of the shelf life. This tactic is used to extend the shelf life of the product and another label with information on frozen meat with a different shelf life is attached.
Hygiene conditions, compliance with accompanying documents, maintaining temperature storage conditions, ensuring traceability, and labeling of products were also checked.
Inspectors discovered several batches of frozen beef which had been imported into Europe from countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and the United States in a refrigerated state and frozen in cold storage in the EU, with the expiry date given by the manufacturer having been changed.
The main non-conformities found included double labeling of items. In addition to the manufacturer’s label, another one was applied after the change in the product through freezing. In some cases, there was a lack of product traceability.
Inspectors applied 20 sanctions and detained more than 6,000 kilograms of beef. Findings also prompted authorities to extend official controls on this topic at the national level.
Misleading or fraudulent practices identified during official controls are entered into the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation system, a platform used at the European Union level to exchange information on cross-border violations of rules.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)