Food Imports: Tough New Checks

Thailand’s announcement of more stringent inspections of food imports from the EU and other areas comes after the EU’s own announcement of stricter regulation against Thai food imports. Thai officials claim the new policy is not a retaliation against the EU, whose more rigorous inspections have caused Thai food exporters large financial losses. - YaleGlobal

Food Imports: Tough New Checks

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Imports of food products, including canned foods, milk, cheese and fruit, and some industrial goods from major sources including the European Union, Japan, and the US will be subject to tougher import inspections, the International Economic Policy Committee decided yesterday.

However, Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik, who chaired the meeting, denied that the move was in retaliation against strict EU inspections of Thai shrimp and chicken imports.

"We will inspect everything, including foreign fruits, canned foods, and milk and cheese that may be contaminated," he said.

"We aren't retaliating against anyone and don't expect this to develop into an international dispute. We're simply following international practices that we had not followed before."

Adisai said the measure would be implemented immediately. Yesterday's meeting between involved agencies - including the Commerce, Public Health, and Agriculture ministries - was held to formulate appropriate measures.

The ob-jective is to protect the health of local consumers, he said.

Previously, local inspections were conducted after food was imported but inspections would now be more vigorous and made during the importing process.

The inspections would |also apply to some industrial goods, Adisai said without elaborating.

"We are not retaliating (against the EU), we're doing what they have done. Since we regard European lives as valuable, the lives of Thais are also precious," he said.

The Commerce Minister said the Thai government would implement the import inspections under international guidelines, which are acceptable to all parties.

After finding some traces of the banned antibiotic nitrofuran in Thai shrimp and chicken early last year, the EU has toughened its import inspections of Thai food products, resulting in a drop in Thai exports of several billion baht.

Last year, Thailand imported fruit and vegetables from the EU, US and other countries worth Bt8.9 billion, up 8.15 per cent from 2001, according to the Commerce Ministry.

China was the biggest importer of Thai foodstuffs last year with imports worth Bt2.17 billion, followed by the US (Bt1.59 billion), Australia (Bt1.14 billion), UK (Bt759.8 million), Germany (Bt493.7 million), Greece (Bt340.9 million) and Belgium (Bt271.3 million).

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