Lorry loads of fresh food imports coming into the UK are being condemned and going to waste due to migrants sneaking into the trucks in an attempt to enter the UK illegally.
The former agriculture and food minister, Sir James Paice, has warned parliament that if illegal immigrants are found in lorries carrying fresh food then the whole lorry load may need to be condemned and won’t enter the food chain.
The concern over the potential damage immigration could cause to the fresh food supply in the UK has led to ministers agreeing to meet food industry officials.
Sir James Paice has warned ‘’ample evidence’’ has emerged showing many people are trying to enter the country illegally by hiding in lorries from Spain or other locations away from the French port of Calais.
This leads to the loads of the lorries being “condemned”, MPs heard.
Sir James Paice said the retail sector is “increasingly worried” about fresh food supplies as he pressed the Home Secretary for a meeting.
He told Mrs May in the Commons: “Will you accept that it’s not just in the locale of Calais that there’s the problem of illegal immigrants?’’
“There’s ample evidence now that many of them are getting into lorries as far a field as Spain, particularly lorries bringing fresh food into this country, which means the whole load is condemned.
“Are you aware that our retail sector is now increasingly worried about fresh food supplies and I wonder whether you will meet with me and ... the industry to discuss how we can get on top of this issue?”
Mrs May responded: “I am certainly happy either myself or immigration minister James Brokenshire to meet with you and the industry.
“This is an issue we are aware of and we are looking to introduce improved ability to identify people who are within lorries when they pass through our juxtaposed controls in Calais.
“But obviously, as you have said, the problem is often people are getting into the lorries further a field, which even if you find them at Calais the load is still considered to have been damaged and contaminated.”
Sir James continued on the issue during the second reading of the ‘Serious Crime Bill’, letting MP’s know that groups of up to 12 immigrants at a time were trying to hide in lorries destined for the UK.
The MP for South East Cambridgeshire said: "The particular business in my constituency, one of the largest producers of fresh produce of salad crops and others, and not just in this country but in Spain and other parts of Europe, they had three incidents in the previous two years up until February of people coming in on their lorries.
"But in the period since February there's been a massive increase. This culminated in three separate incidents in one week in the run-up to Christmas."
He continued: "In one of these incidents in the run-up to Christmas, 12 people, three of them young children, laying on top of pallets of lettuce in a secure lorry, running at 4C above freezing as part of the cool chain, and it's quite clear that these people are in these lorries for many, many hours.
"They're not boarding them at Calais or just outside ... they are clearly entering these lorries either in Spain or a long, long way down France before the vehicles reach Calais."