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EFTA pinpoints weakness in Icelandic import controls

By Joe Whitworth , 28-Jan-2013

Iceland needs to remedy potential shortcomings in its import control system and checks of products from animal origin, according to a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) report.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority found it was not guaranteed that all products of animal origin that enter the country are subject to veterinary checks.

It added that facilities at border inspection points (BIPs) are generally in line with European Economic Area (EEA) legislation but identified severe shortcomings.

Key shortcomings

These included: 

  • A lack of accurate knowledge concerning incoming products. Less than 20% of checked consignments are pre-notified by operators and systematic cross-checks are not carried out;
  • lack of adequate veterinary checks before customs clearance (which can happen up to six months after entry into Iceland);
  • lack of knowledge of the nature of the goods in transit which may lead to absence of veterinary checks on products of animal origin

The authority reported weak enforcement of existing rules and procedures, highlighting the 60-day deadline to destroy or re-dispatch rejected consignments and the absence of measures to remedy the lack of pre-notifications of consignments by operators.

EFTA carried out the checks in October last year to verify that official controls related to import control systems and BIPs are carried out in compliance with the EEA legislation.

It follows a 2010 report were several shortcomings in the import control procedures were also identified.

MAST response

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) provided an action plan with deadlines in which EFTA's recommendations are addressed.

In response to some of the claims, MAST said by the end of March this year: “The procedure for rejection of consignments will be revised in order to improve the adherence to the 60 days limit.”

MAST also said monitoring of incoming consignments will be improved, especially in relation to those from a third country introduced into the EEA without having veterinary checks at a BIP.

Another issue identified was ensuring animal products of fish origin arriving from third countries are accompanied by the relevant original veterinary documents.

Iceland is in the midst of negotiations with Canadian Authorities on finding a practical solution to the issuance of veterinary health certificates for wild catches from EU approved freezer / factory vessels temporarily landed directly onto Canadian grounds,” said MAST.

“The products are further sent by reefer ships to the EEA. Discussions are ongoing and have been so for some time. These are to be continued with involvement of the offices of foreign affairs of both countries with the aim of fulfilling the legal requirements applicable within the EU as early as possible, hopefully within the next two to three months.” 

The EEA agreement for Iceland was extended on 1 November 2011. EEA import control procedures of products of animal origin had only applied to fish and fishery products and import controls for other animal products fell under national legislation until the extended legislation.

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