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Iceland’s Fresh Meat Import Ban in Breach of EEA Law

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Iceland’s Fresh Meat Import Ban in Breach of EEA Law

Icelandic minke whale meat.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The Icelandic legislation currently applicable to the importation of fresh meat, meat preparation and other meat products from other EEA states is in breach of EEA law, as concluded in a reasoned opinion issued by the EFTA Surveillance Authority last week.

The authorization procedure under Icelandic law is considered unnecessary and an unjustified trade barrier. Iceland has two months to comply with the reasoned opinion.

Icelandic Minister of Agriculture Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson told ruv.is that the opinion will likely be appealed to the EFTA Court. “It’s … disappointing that the ESA should come to this conclusion. We have argued that this concerns basic health issues and I expect that we will defend our position in court.”

In the ESA’s view, the justification presented by Iceland for limiting the import of fresh meat, that is, to eliminate the risk of infection to the Icelandic livestock and protect human health, doesn’t hold.

Sigurður disagrees. “We will of course review the matter in the two months that we have before responding to the ESA, but we at the ministry don’t believe that [Iceland is at a risk of liability]. It has to do with basic public interests and we believe that we have a solid case in our hands.”

Under Icelandic law, the importation of fresh meat, processed or unprocessed, chilled or frozen, as well as meat preparations and other meat is subject to an authorization procedure. Importers must apply for a permit and submit documentation to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Office.

The ESA concludes that this authorization procedure is in breach of the directive concerning veterinary checks in EEA trade, which main objective is to reinforce health check at a product’s point of origin and facilitate free movement of goods, while eliminating additional veterinary checks at the EEA’s internal borders.

By requiring importers to apply for permits and present several certificates, for example to confirm that the products are free of salmonella, the Icelandic legislation imposes additional and systematic veterinary checks on products that have already been subject to a comprehensive system of veterinary and health checks in their countries of origin, the ESA reasons on its website.

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