Hull port chief raises concerns about what Brexit means for food checks

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 14 Dec 2017

Hull's chief port health officer says food import controls must not be downgraded after Brexit.

The Humber is set to become a new trade border when the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

About 3.7m tonnes of food products are currently imported through the Humber ports each year with just over a quarter coming from the EU.

In a new report, Hull and Goole chief port health officer Laurence Dettman said: "Whether the UK/EU negotiations result in a hard or soft Brexit, my own feeling is that we must not allow import controls to be downgraded.

"It is imperative that we maintain at least the same levels of protection or improve them in public and animal health terms.

READ MORE: What Hull needs to happen as Brexit trade talks head to 'phase two'

"In this fast-moving world, it is perhaps easy to forget the catastrophic foot and mouth epidemic of 2001, the EU horse meat scandal, chlorine-dipped chicken, the Chinese melamine in baby-milk scandal, salmonella in eggs, Sudan red dye in food, and many incidents which have tested our global, EU and UK food control systems and sadly led to many unnecessary deaths and cases of illness, together with major losses to the economy."

A view of King George Dock from the top of one of the cranes for discharging containers (Image: Peter Harbour)

Mr Dettman said it was likely there would be some new system introduced to check EU food being imported into the country.

At the moment, EU food imports are not inspected because of free movement between member states who share the same standards.

Once out of the EU, the UK faces having to come up with its own way of checking the quality and safety of food being brought into the country.

The scale of that challenge was underlined in a recent study of EU food products imported through Hull and Goole during August.

Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs that the EU Withdrawal Bill would end the supremacy of EU law

It recorded over 7,500 consignments at the two ports, an average of 250 per day.

Mr Dettman said: "Any future checks on EU food will be in addition to established, stringent checks on non-EU food.

"The implications for all options are likely to have a huge impact on food safety and UK port health authorities’ capacity and resources, unsurprisingly with no mention, to date, of any provision of central government financial support.

"The levels of any checks on food from the EU would be highest at ferry ports such as Dover, Hull and the Humber Sea Terminal at Killingholme where most of the existing trade involves EU consignments. The checks on meat alone could quadruple."

Mr Dettman said changes in shipping methods over recent years such as the use of on roll on/roll off vessels and containerisation together with the emphasis on fast road transport were the result of free movement within the EU without any border controls.

"Delays at ports for port health and customs checks would be an inevitable and expensive consequence of leaving the EU," he added.

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