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      Wednesday 25 Jun 2014

      Bringing back novel or exotic food and plant products from some countries could bring serious disease and unwanted pests which may threaten the health of our local agricultural livestock and crops.

      That was the message from Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill as she visited George Best Belfast City Airport, to view the portal inspection process in place to discover illegal imports of food and plant products.
      During 2013, over 1029kg of illegal food products were seized at the two main local airports, and in recent years, consignments of illegal imports of food products of non-EU origin have been seized from over 44 countries worldwide.  This year the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Portal Inspection Branch have deployed a 'detector dog' to sniff luggage as it arrives off the plane to look for illegal imports.

      Minister O'Neill said: "Holidaymakers should remember that there are basic rules on what they can and can't bring back with them from their trip.  There are restrictions on foodstuffs and plants which can be brought back from countries outside the north of Ireland.  No meat or dairy products from outside the EU are allowed.

      "People travelling through local ports or airports should check the rules on food and plant imports before they leave home.  Illegal goods will be sized and destroyed, and having to conduct these checks may delay passengers.  Holidaymakers also risk prosecution and a fine.

      "Epizootic diseases threaten our animal health status, and if a major disease enters the north of Irleand, trade and jobs will be at risk."

      To keep illegal imports of animals, animal products and plant products, including fish, meat and vegetables out, the Portal Inspection Branch maintain a permanent inspection presence at all main ports and airports.

      For detailed information on what can and cannot be brought into Northern Ireland call the DARD Portal Inspection office on: 028 94426822, or visit NI Direct