The NFU has welcomed a report by the Food Standards Agency into controls on food imports but stressed the need for more attention to be given to stamping out illegal imports.

The report issued at the FSA's open board meeting earlier this week included 10 proposals to ensure that the loopholes in the existing system are tied up.

They include bringing imports of animal products under the control of the FSA, increased powers for port health officers over personal imports and the establishment of an electronic information database for port health authorities.

Farmers are concerned that lax import controls could bring a repeat of the devastating foot and mouth disease outbreak.

NFU Food Standards Committee Chairman Michael Seals said: "A great deal of practical ground was covered by the report, much of which we agree with.

"However the FSA should look more closely at the problem of illegal imports, how these should be controlled and how to prevent them from entering the country in the first place.

"The FSA must ensure that sufficient resources are made available - both finance and the personnel - to implement controls.

"As well as looking at how current resources can be utilised more effectively the FSA must also consider whether more manpower is needed to improve controls and look at ways of funding these controls."

The NFU has held an on-going campaign to tighten up illegal food and plant controls imports including a petition signed by more than 30,000 people which was handed to the Government earlier this month. Farmers have also held a national day of demonstrations at ferry ports to raise awareness of the problem.

The FSA board agreed yesterday's proposals and will report back in six months.

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this document, the NFU cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.  This information should not be regarded as constituting legal advice, and should therefore not be relied upon as such.  NFU©