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Germany

Foreign Foodstuff to be Stopped at EU Gates

The EU is tightening rules on personal imports of meat and milk starting 2003 to prevent diseases like foot-and-mouth. So, out with that tin of corned beef or Arabic laban from your bag before you fly into Europe.

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Here you go Sir and hope you're not carrying any food of your own from Egypt

Spent a vacation in Turkey, fell in love with its Dil cheese and now want to carry some home to Germany to prolong the trip at least in a culinary way?

Or want to carry some Indian halwa for friends back in Italy? Forget about it.

The EU has decided to put up barriers against all personal imports of meat and milk products starting January 1, 2003.

Travelers entering the EU from certain third countries will no longer be allowed to bring in personal imports of meat, meat products, milk or milk products on their person or in their luggage, unless accompanied by official veterinary documentation.

Measure prompted by food scares

David Bryne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, said, "With the foot-and-mouth disease crisis fresh in our minds, the significance of this measure is clear. Even small quantities of infected products for personal use may spark an outbreak of animal disease. It is therefore important to make travelers aware of the risks and enlist their help in our efforts to stop infectious animal diseases from entering the EU."

The EU argues that the practice is already in place in other parts of the world and that its regulations only apply to limited foodstuffs.

Beate Gminder, spokeswoman of the Brussels EU commission told DW-RADIO, "Every European who has been in the U.S. knows that the same regulations are valid in America. Where one arrives and finds these big signs that one must throw away sandwiches or even apples. The European Union has limited the ban only to milk and meat products because those are really the ones, where they can be animal bacteria."

What you can and can't

The new rules do not apply to countries that have proven comparable standards of hygiene. Hence, travelers arriving from Greenland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the EU candidate countries, with the exception of Turkey, are not subject to the regulations.

Travelers however will be allowed to bring in powdered infant milk, baby food and special foods required for medical reasons. But they need to ensure that the product doesn’t need refrigeration before consumption, that it’s a registered brand product and that the packaging is unbroken.

Gminder also said that the EU is sparing no costs to make people aware of the new regulations that are due to come into force soon.

"We’ve printed large posters in 30 languages, among them Swahili, Chinese or Arabic for example, that are supposed to alert passengers even before their departure at the airports of the third countries as well as during their journey, to the fact that they are not allowed to carry these products."

Don't worry, eat on flight

But for those used to boarding flights with their favorite sandwiches or burgers tucked into their hand luggage for later, need not fret.

"Of course you can board the flight with your ham sandwich as before and usually one assumes that it will be consumed on the airplane," says Gminder.

But what happens, when a forgotten yogurt is discovered in your hand luggage upon arrival?

"How that’s organized in each country and what a traveler who violates the rules, can expect, will be decided by the single member countries. But I think that the corpus delicti will be removed because the aim of this thing is not to penalize travelers, but to really prevent animal diseases."

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