Diseased lamb carcasses condemned at meat plants

Department of Agriculture excludes 400 lambs from food chain

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials are investigating an outbreak of a disease called sarcocystosis in lambs that is believed to have originated in Donegal.

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials are investigating an outbreak of a disease called sarcocystosis in lambs that is believed to have originated in Donegal.

 

More than 400 lamb carcasses have been condemned at meat plants around the Republic after the animals were found to have a disease that can be transmitted to humans.

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials are investigating an outbreak of a disease called sarcocystosis in lambs that is believed to have originated in Donegal.

A number of meat processors destroyed more than 400 lamb carcasses in recent weeks after they showed signs of the disease.

Inspectors condemned the meat to prevent it entering the food chain and potentially passing the illness to humans, who can contract it from eating under-cooked meat infected with the parasite that causes the disease.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed that its vets have condemned carcasses in several meat plants over a number of weeks because they were not fit for human consumption.

“The carcasses were excluded from the food chain. The animals have been traced and possible causes are being investigated,” the department said.

Lambs contract sarcocystosis from dogs who in turn get it from eating offal containing the parasite. It is mostly detected after the animals are slaughtered, when cysts can be seen on the meat.

Symptoms of the condition in people include stomach aches, nausea, headaches, fever and diarrhoea. Where humans have contracted it in the past, infected meat was blamed.

Raw meat

According to the Food Safety Authority the disease is rare here and is “more prevalent in cultures where raw meat is commonly eaten”. It does not have to be notified to the State’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The Health Service Executive said that the last recorded outbreak was in Malaysia in 2012, when 93 people suffered symptoms.

The Irish outbreak surfaced a few weeks ago and was traced to a flock in Donegal. However, infected animals have shown up in meat plants in different parts of the State.

The department has restricted the flock where the outbreak occurred, which means that sheep cannot be moved or sold.

Sources say that the outbreak has highlighted a problem with sheep identification which is not as advanced as the system used for beef and dairy herds.

The department uses a flock register and relies on farmers to update it on the movement of individual animals.

It uses a more advanced electronic system for beef and dairy herds. Organisations such as the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) say that introducing a similar system for sheep would increase costs for one of the harder-hit sectors in Irish agriculture.

There are concerns that the outbreak could threaten the Republic’s €320 million sheep farming industry and exports of lamb if signs of the disease were found in Irish products sold abroad.

At the moment there is increased demand from Muslim communities in European countries such as France for lamb as they are celebrating their holy month, Ramadan.

If infected meat were to turn up in other countries, it could prompt their authorities to halt or limit imports from the Republic. Department vets inspect animals sent to Irish meat plants before and after they are slaughtered. They condemn any meat found unfit for human consumption.