Iceland’s fresh meat imports restrictions breach law according to EFTA

cowIceland’s restrictions on fresh meat imports from European Economic Area (EEA) states breach the law, claims the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority. Iceland says that it introduced the restrictions to protect the health and life of people and animals; however, EFTA says this is not reasonable justification.

Icelandic law states that imports of fresh meats, chilled or frozen meats, processed or unprocessed meats, meat preparations, and any other kind of meat has to be officially authorised.

Importers have to apply for a permit then submit documents to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Office with information such as confirming products are free of Salmonella or have been frozen.

However, EFTA has said that this authorisation procedure does not comply with the Council Directive 89/662/EEC on EEA trade veterinary checks.

By requiring importers to apply for a permit and submit certificates, Iceland is systematically checking imports from EEA member states, which goes beyond checks allowed under the official Directive and means the country is unjustifiably blocking trade.

EFTA’s letter of formal notice to Iceland is the first action of an infringement procedure against any EEA State. The North Atlantic island’s government now must reply within two months.

EFTA Surveillance Authority then has the option to deliver a reasoned opinion – the final stage before the case can be referred to the EFTA Court.

In 2011, EFTA sent a letter to Iceland asking for a description of the regulations around importing meat from EEA States and developing countries, and how they could justify them.

Iceland replied the following March, stating that its rules are justified under the legislation and the precautionary principle. It said its livestock is also more exposed than livestock in other European states and bringing more meat into the country would raise the risk of infection.