The head of the UK’s Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, has warned that the planned expansion of the EU could lead to greater food health risks.
Krebs said it would be harder to regulate food products in a larger EU, and the risk of illegal imports into the UK would increase.
Ten more countries are to be accepted into the EU, mainly from Eastern Europe.
“European enlargement, now firmly on the horizon, will bring consumer benefits, but also possibly new risks,” Krebs was quoted as saying by BBC Online. “There are food-processing plants in the new member states that do not meet EU standards, and they will have to be upgraded or closed.”
He went on to warn that these upgrades would take time, which would create opportunities for accidental mixing of products that comply with standards and those that do not, and opportunities for fraud.
“Within the European framework, regulators will play their part, but industry will have to be vigilant in checking its sources to ensure safety and standards are upheld,” he said.
Warning of increased illegal imports, Krebs said: “Eighty-seven new inspection points at the external borders will have to be created to check legal imports and to stop illegal imports slipping through from countries outside.
“The borders of other member states are our borders, so simply enhancing out UK import controls will not help.
“Public authorities will check as much as they can, but given the scale and complexity of what will be taking place, UK importers will have a major responsibility for ensuring the security of their supply chains.”