Ireland has best 'oversight system' in world


Ireland has the best oversight system in the world for food production, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has insisted in the Dáil in the ongoing controversy over the discovery of horse meat in a beefburger.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who questioned why Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney was only told on Monday of the findings of tests carried out on burger meat in November and again in December, both of which proved positive for horse meat content.

Mr Martin asked the Minister if he believed it was acceptable that Mr Coveney was only told three days ago. Department of Agriculture officials were informed on December 21st.

Mr Martin also called for a traceability system to be introduced for horse meat because he said the number of horses slaughtered in Ireland had rocketed last year to 20,000. Traceability systems to locate the source of meat are in place for pigs, cattle and sheep.

The Minister said questions of traceability could be addressed once all the issues around the findings by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which tested 27 frozen beef burger products, were resolved. Results are expected later today of further tests on samples from the Silvercrest Foods plant in Co Monaghan to establish if meat products still contain traces of horse DNA.

Mr Martin said it was unacceptable to say we have to get it confirmed in Germany before we tell the Minister.

Mr Howlin said the samples were sent to Germany for further analysis after the initial findings. These results were seen by the food safety authority on Friday January 11th and the authority informed the Department of Agriculture on Monday 14th, when Mr Coveney was informed.

He added that all of this, the sequencing, the degree of knowledge, the quality of the meat can be put to the Minister for Agriculture once the immediate issues had been dealt with.

Mr Howlin said they would deal with the controversy in a measured, open and transparent way. He said there had been criticism of Ireland, but the traces were only found because of Ireland's very high standard of oversight for food production, the best in the world I would say.

The controversy was raised in the House of Commons and British prime minister David Cameron described the issue as a completely unacceptable state of affairs. But Mr Howlin said the UK did not do the level of testing we do here.

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