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Alarm Raised Over Inadequate Border Facility and Fears for Food Safety

The Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) has issued a stark warning that the Sevington facility in Ashford, located 22 miles inland from Dover, is not adequately prepared to manage the expected surge in EU food imports under new post-Brexit regulations set to take effect next month.


Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

The facility, originally designated for checks on goods arriving via the Channel Tunnel, is now under scrutiny for its capacity to handle the broader scope of imports anticipated, sparking fears of increased disease risk and food fraud.


Lucy Manzano, the head of DPHA, has voiced significant concerns regarding the facility's capacity and design in a comprehensive letter, noting that Sevington was not conceived as a unified site for all food imports through Dover and the Channel Tunnel.


She highlighted the infrastructure's shortcomings in meeting the government's demands for a wide range of food inspections on items imported from the EU.


The government's selection of Sevington, despite earlier indications that some inspections would occur within Dover's Port at the Bastion Point facility, has prompted the DPHA to consider legal action.


Manzano's critique extends to the potential impact on the UK's border and biosecurity systems, arguing that relocating inspections inland could significantly compromise the nation's defense against the entry of illegal and potentially harmful food products.


In response to the capacity concerns at Sevington, the government has proposed a contingency plan that may involve allowing lorries to pass through without paper checks to reduce congestion.


However, the parliamentary environmental and rural affairs select committee has previously expressed worries about the biosecurity risks posed by an inland border, suggesting that these apprehensions have yet to be fully addressed.


A government spokesperson has defended the introduction of new border controls, emphasizing the UK's unwavering commitment to high standards of food and animal health safety.


The spokesperson assured that the phased implementation of these controls, following thorough consultation with the industry, is essential for protecting the UK against the introduction of potentially harmful pests and diseases.


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