Dover puts food safety first

 Dover port health staff carrying out food safety checks are being sidelined by DEFRA, which is telling importers that their goods should be routed through Sevington. Before shipping certain goods, importers must pre-register the shipment using a system called IPAFFS which is short for Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System. DEFRA is telling everyone to delete the Dover port code from the documentation and  to change their IPAFFS point of entry to  Sevington.

Staff at Dover have been carrying out SPS food safety checks for a decade, but they have never found themselves at loggerheads with DEFRA before. The root of the problem is the Border Operating Model (BTOM), which is not set up to manage product assessments requiring detailed knowledge and experience. 

Assigning three levels of risk to food imports does not cover real life situations. Take High Risk Food Not Of Animal Origin HRFNAO, which is a detailed listing of food products that need to be checked for specific  hazards. These can include central European blueberries, which are checked for radioactive Caesium 137 from Chernobyl; peanut products from north and south America, which are checked for aflatoxins; or US fishery products, for which processing hygiene standards vary widely.

There is a statutory compliance angle to these product checks, which are regulated by assimilated European laws. At this point they are beyond the remit of BTOM and DEFRA is not authorised to change their enforcement. So instead, the ministry has been advising importers to amend the IPAFFS entry from Dover to Sevington.

In the meantime, Dover port health staff continue to carry out the food safety checks that keep the nation’s food safe.

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