Minister queried on newspaper report


Opposition parties last night called on the Minister of State with responsibility for food, Mr Ned O'Keeffe, to make a detailed response to a newspaper report that his family farm fed meat-and-bone meal to pigs, breaching a voluntary code.

Labour and the Green Party called on the Minister to resign unless he could give a full and satisfactory explanation.

According to the Sunday Tribune, the O'Keeffe piggery in Co Cork fed meat-and-bone meal to pigs despite agreeing not to do so through participation in a voluntary quality assurance scheme.

Mr O'Keeffe said last night that he would be making a statement today.

The Fine Gael spokesman on agriculture, Mr Alan Dukes, said Mr O'Keeffe should make a full statement about the use of meat-and-bone meal in feeding pigs produced by his farm under the Galtee Meats quality assurance scheme. "The Minister of State, who has special responsibility for food quality and safety, must clearly give the best possible example to other food producers in relation to adherence to quality and safety standards."

The Labour leader, Mr Ruairi Quinn, said Mr O'Keeffe should clarify whether his was one of 17 farms licensed to feed meat-and-bone meal to pigs. He said that at no stage during debate last week on a Labour Party private members' motion on banning the use of the feed had Mr O'Keeffe declared his interest.

"His own Department, which is responsible for regulating this practice, has also refused to disclose the identity of licence-holders. Mr O'Keeffe's own declaration of interest under the Ethics Act cites his primary source of income as derived from farming. At face value, the Minister is clearly guilty of breaching the spirit and quite possibly the letter of the Ethics Act."