EU finds serious flaws in farm system


THE EU’s food and veterinary office has uncovered serious deficiencies relating to animal identification and movement controls on an Irish farm that it selected for a spot check.

In its report on the mission to evaluate the operation of controls over the traceability of beef and beef products from retail outlet to farm of origin, food and veterinary office (FVO) was critical of cross-compliance checks.

Although it said the system covering the registration of cattle holdings and the identification of bovine animals in general met the requirements of EU legislation, improvements were needed.

“Not all the appropriate criteria are taken into account for the selection of holdings for cross-compliance checks,” said the report.

“Moreover cross-compliance checks are not reliable and the checks do not require systematic control of all animals.

“One example was seen where, despite a recent cross-compliance check, serious deficiencies with regard to animal identification and movement control were present,” the report said.

In one cattle farm visited, which was selected by the Irish authorities, the FVO identified that the on-farm register had been updated by the keeper in co-operation with them a few days before the inspection visit.

“Two sets of ear tags were ordered a few days before the visit and applied to the animals. The keeper could not provide documented evidence of a correlation between both animals and the two sets of ear tags,” said the report.

It said another holding was selected on a risk basis by the FVO as this holding had ordered an increasing number of sets of ear tags in three consecutive years (five sets in 2008, 11 sets in 2009 and 13 sets in 2010).

It said that on this holding, very serious deficiencies were identified including the ordering of a set of replacement ear tags for a dead animal in the period between the death of the animal and the notification of the death to the computerised database.

Four original ear tags were registered in the computerised database for animals that were still alive and these ear tags were not applied to the animals.

The team asked the Irish authorities to carry out a detailed investigation concerning all animals in the holding which had been subject to a cross-compliance check the year before but did not identify any discrepancy although they were present in 2009.

The report concluded the official controls in the framework of the system for the identification and registration of bovine animals were not reliable as not all the appropriate criteria were taken into account.

The EU team also looked at traceability systems in processing plants and found them satisfactory except in one establishment where minced meat was produced from vacuum-packed meat but not within the required limit of 15 days after slaughter.

Three slaughterhouses, four cutting plants, two cold stores, two farms and eight retail outlets were covered in the mission as well as two cattle dealers and the Department of Agriculture’s central bovine database centre.