Local authorities warned about inspecting abbattoirs


THE Minister for Agriculture, Mr Yates, has issued the "starkest warning" to local authorities to carry out proper inspections of all animals slaughtered for human consumption in abattoirs under their supervision.

Due to lack of resources some local authorities had not been able to provide service at the required standard, but the Government has now decided to provide £1.5 million in financial assistance so that the 470 domestic abattoirs in the State can be properly monitored.

Mr Yates told a press conference he would not hesitate to take action against the local authority if proper surveillance was not carried out in every domestic abattoir from January 1st.

These were interim arrangements, but he confirmed that the Government had decided in principle to enact legislation transferring responsibility for inspection and certification of meat from domestic abattoirs to his Department "to ensure that there will be a uniform system in all plants".

On farm incomes, the Minister welcomed the advance estimate from the Central Statistics Office, which showed an increase of 0.1 per cent in agricultural incomes this year. Aggregate income had reached new record levels well above £2 billion.

"This is a very good performance against the background of the difficulties experienced by the beef sector resulting from the BSE crisis," according to the Minister.

Mr Yates's Department was given an increase of 55 per cent in the Book of Estimates for computerisation, bringing the total provision in this regard above £8 million.

The Minister said this reflected the importance of making rapid progress on a computerised beef traceability system to underpin consumer confidence and meet EU obligations on the identification and registration of cattle.

Asked about reports of three new BSE cases this week, the Minister said "the number of cases that are in the laboratory has shown something of a decline over recent weeks".

Mr Yates stood by his prediction that "in or around 70 cases" would probably be the outcome for this year.