There are Port Health Authorities run by local authorities at ports of entry into the EU such as Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. At the last two airports the offices are manned by Environmental Health Officers (EHO) who are responsible for conducting document, identity and physical checks on imported consignments of food from all countries, including smoked fish from West Africa.
The inspections are based on the following legislation:
EU legislation pertaining specifically to Nigeria is 98/420/EC: Commission Decision of 30 June 1998 laying down special conditions governing imports of fishery and aquaculture products originating in Nigeria. (See Annex 2 of this report).
UK Products of Origin (import & export) Regulations 1996 (these regulations are being replaced)
EU Directive 93/13 (inspectors guidelines)
EU Directive 97/98 (veterinary checks)
EU Directive 91/493 (health certificate, origin, packaging and labelling)
EU Directive 97/296 (list of allowed export countries)
The document and identity checks are compulsory. The physical check is carried out on a sample of a consignment. According to Port Health at Gatwick, all consignments of smoked fish undergo a physical check at the border inspection post (BIP), situated in the airport customs shed. There is a charge to importers for the BIP check.
A consignment will pass the document check if there is a properly filled out and signed health certificate issued by the EU recognised competent authority in the country of origin. The certificate should match the consignment characteristics, be written in English and show the number of the EU authorised exporter. Port Health will also require the Airway Bill and ideally a packing list for cross checking the health certificate details.
Inspectors will check that the export establishment number and country of origin are clearly stamped or written on each box for the identity check.
The physical check involves an inspection of the product for any abnormalities (insect infestation) and the packaging to make sure that it is not reused (cardboard boxes) or split and that it is protecting the product as per EU Directive 493. If the consignment does not pass the checks then it will be detained. This fish is either:
released after the problem has been rectified (for example original Health Certificate in French so English version had to be arranged).
shipped back at importers expense to country of origin using main cargo carriers which charge £4 per kg.
destroyed - land fill or incineration