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EU anti-fraud body urges trade vigilance

The high number of investigations into customs frauds involving meat has sparked the European Union's anti-fraud agency into warning such crimes could engineer illicit imports which could be carrying the risk of foot & mouth disease.

The high number of investigations into customs frauds involving meat has sparked the European Union's (EU) anti-fraud agency (OLAF) into warning such crimes could engineer illicit imports which could be carrying the risk of foot & mouth disease (FMD).

In its latest annual report, OLAF noted that of its 108 active customs fraud cases, meat was involved in 20 cases, more than any other food sector, barring sugar. Such cases invariably cost the EU treasury millions of euros, as customs duties are earmarked for European spending.

However, it was the risk of spreading FMD that has really caught the agency's eye. Its report stressed OLAF analysis which stated that "exports of meat from FMD risk areas [such as the Middle East and the Caucasus] to countries that are neighbours to the EU in central and eastern Europe have risen strongly".

If the traders disguise the origin of these imports when re-exporting to the EU, "this creates a potential risk for the further spreading of the disease", noted the annual report.