Published last week, the Committee’s report raised serious concerns for exporters of time-sensitive fresh and live seafood and meat shipments to the EU, particularly small and medium sized businesses. It highlighted concerns that the new barriers these businesses are now facing could leave them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.
Having been invited to give oral evidence to the Committee, CIEH raised the need to simplify and speed up the administrative process through digitalisation, which has now been reflected in the report.
CIEH also outlined the very real danger of the lack of import checks for food coming to the UK from the EU undermining public health.
These concerns were shared by the EFRA committee and included in their report; pointing out that controls on EU seafood and meat imports will not commence until 1st October 2021, with checks at the border only starting on 1st January 2022. Not only does this potentially allow sub-standard food into the UK’s market, but it also puts British businesses at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
Whilst CIEH has welcomed the majority of the report, it has raised concerns with the Committee relating to who can certify Export Health Certificates. The report states that Export Health Certificates must be certified by an Official Veterinarian (OV) or, for seafood, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) when seafood can in fact also be certified by other local authority ‘Food Competent Certifying Officers’. In addition, certification support officers are now able to support local authority certifying officers.
Gary McFarlane, CIEH Northern Ireland Director, said:
“This report is an important step in highlighting the difficulties UK businesses who export food to the EU are currently facing, and the public health dangers inherent in the current set up.
We were pleased to see the Committee include our call to make the process easier for UK businesses by digitalising the administration, and heartened that they share our concerns regarding the complete lack of food inspections for produce coming from the EU into the UK.
We look forward to hearing the UK Government’s full response to these issues, and to see their plans for improving the system so it is both safe and sustainable.
We were concerned to see some factual errors relating to environmental health officers and Certifying Officers, and we have raised these directly with the EFRA Committee for amending.”
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