Dover's Port Health Authority is threatening to sue the UK Government over plans it says may pose a biosecurity risk. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


UK port may sue Government over ‘dangerous foreign meat’ risk


The health authority at Britain’s port of Dover could bring legal action against the UK Government if it does not reconsider a plan to move checks on potentially dangerous foods away from the port, thereby creating what it said represented a “biosecurity risk”.

Dover’s Port Health Authority is worried about lorries and vans carrying large quantities of meat that could be “contaminated” into Britain.

That, it said, would risk illegal and dangerous foodstuffs entering the market, possibly leading to the spread of diseases such as African swine fever and foot and mouth.

Following Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2020, the country has gradually been bringing in a new border system for checks.

From April, the Government wants to move spot-checks on products of animal origin away from Dover, which handles a third of the UK’s trade in goods, to a site 32 kilometres inland at Sevington.

But the Port Health Authority and a parliamentary committee said there was no mechanism to ensure that vehicles sent for checks would go to the site and there was a risk that vehicles could be unloaded before they arrived there.

The health authority stepped up its opposition to the plan on February 9, saying it had “engaged legal counsel” with a view to possibly taking action.

“If the Government will not reconsider the decisions or come to the table and explain how these can be delivered, then we are considering very clearly our next steps,” said Lucy Manzano, head of the Dover Port Health Authority.

“We can’t see how these changes are in the best interest of GB biosecurity and can be delivered in a way that it doesn’t put us all, as consumers, at risk.”

In Britain, Government plans can be challenged by judicial review.

The UK’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) department said it was working with the port of Dover on “future support options”.

“We have strict border controls in place to protect our high biosecurity standards – and are confident that existing and new infrastructure will have the capacity and capability to maintain these standards,” a Government spokesperson said.

“We cannot comment further due to ongoing legal proceedings,” the spokesperson said, adding that was a reference to the potential judicial review.

The Port Health Authority’s concerns about biosecurity are shared by the EFRA Select Committee, whose chair has written to Conservative MP Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, about the issue.