The Icelandic government is facing pressure from the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority after a ruling found that Iceland’s current import restrictions were in violation of the EEA Agreement.
The bill, if it became law would mean that imports of meat products would be allowed from 1st September, 2019.
However, concerns have been raised by disease experts, farmers and veterinarians that are worried that it could have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on human and animal health in the country, given the environment is protected largely by geographic isolation.
They said that Icelandic livestock only encounter one fifth of infectious agents and are ‘very vulnerable’. Currently Iceland also has the lowest antibacterial resistance rates in Europe, both in animals and humans.
Experts claims that Iceland is particularly prone to the risk of foodborne illness, due to its historic isolation as many diseases are not present and unique breeds of animals are highly susceptible.
Erna Bjarnadóttir, deputy managing director of the Farmers Association of Iceland, said: “There is no doubt that this bill will cause significant and irreversible harm to Icelandic agriculture. It puts business interests over health concerns, going against warnings from doctors, scientists and farmers.”
Professor Karl G. Kristinsson, Icelandic representative to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and Associate Editor of Eurosurveillance, a leading European journal, warned that Iceland is “endangering it’s unique and enviable position” of low antimicrobial resistance, predicted to be the cause of over 10 million deaths worldwide by 2050.
"Icelandic livestock has encountered only about one fifth of the infectious agents affecting livestock,” he said.
“This makes them very vulnerable to imported infectious agents. Major zoonotic agents are either not present or present in much lower quantities in Iceland than in most other European countries.”