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Seafish Warns of Costly Import Restrictions

by Ellen Hardy
18 July 2008, at 1:00am

UK - Imports of seafood into the UK are strictly regulated and monitored to ensure that fishery products reaching European borders are of the standard expected by European consumers.

As part of this process, measures can be imposed by the European Commission, ranging in severity from increased checks to an outright ban, which UK seafood businesses need to be aware of, warns Seafish.

“These are safeguard measures which can involve costs for the importer,” said Ivan Bartolo, Seafish. “Experience has shown that restrictions may be applied with very short notice, leaving importers with an unexpected laboratory bill to pay or, worse still, having their consignment turned away at the border. Over the last few months the European Commission has introduced a series of these.”

The newer restrictions affect fishery products from Fiji, Eritrea and Gabon. There is now an outright ban on imports from Fiji and two importers in Eritrea have been stopped. Fishery products from Gabon now have to be tested for heavy metals and sulphites at the Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) in Europe.


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"Experience has shown that restrictions may be applied with very short notice."
Ivan Bartolo, Seafish

This is on top of the longer standing conditions affecting fish imports from China, Albania, Indonesia, Surinam and Guinea. Fishery products from Guinea were banned completely in February 2007 and smoked fish from Surinam has been banned since early 2007. In the case of China and Albania there is a requirement for analytical checks in the country of origin. China has to provide test results proving the absence of residues of four veterinary medicines in aquaculture products, and Albania has to prove compliance with histamine criteria in susceptible species of fish.

Where there is a requirement for the imported goods to be tested in Europe on arrival at the BIP, it is the importer who pays for the checks, with the goods held until the results become available. This is the case for Indonesian imports which all have to be checked for heavy metals, and in addition some species have to be checked for histamine. It is expected that these measures will be relaxed shortly to exclude products of aquaculture.

“It is necessary to be aware of these restrictions. Delays at BIPs and extra tests are costly to importers. Import restrictions are also unwelcome at the BIPs themselves. BIP managers need to ensure that they have storage capacity for the detained consignments and access to laboratory capacity to deal with the extra tests.

“The Food Standard Agency (FSA) publishes Fishery Information Notes, available from the FSA website, with information on impending restrictions. The Seafish Legislation Alert page on the Seafish Business to Business site (www.seafish.org/B2B) is also regularly updated with advance warnings of restrictions,” said Ivan.

The Seafish Legislation team advises the industry on its current legal requirements and engages with government on any proposed changes to legislation affecting the seafood industry.

Ellen Hardy