Minister warns of pork producer prosecutions


THE Minister for Agriculture, Mr Yates, yesterday warned that his Department will initiate prosecutions against pork producers unless the industry acts within days to ensure animals contaminated with antibiotics do not reach the market.

The Minister was reacting to the survey from the Consumers Association of Ireland which showed that pork contamination levels were higher in Ireland than in any other EU country.

Mr Yates said that when similar problems had arisen with milk in the mid 1980s the industry had successfully acted to resolve the problem.

He said he was seriously concerned about the matter, and believed the key issue was the enforcement of adequate withdrawal periods for animals exposed to antibiotics.

A spokesman for Mr Yates said the head of the Department's livestock section, Mr John Malone, had called in representatives from the industry some six weeks ago to discuss the problem in response to the Department's surveys.

They recorded a significant increase in antibiotic levels in pork in the first quarter of the year. The surveys showed a fall back to normal levels in the second quarter, he said.

The group of representatives, including the Irish Farmers' Association and factory owners, were warned that if the industry did not provide self regulation of withdrawal periods, the Minister would be forced to prosecute individual producers.

The president of the IFA, Mr John Donnelly, said the issue confirmed the IFA's call for the establishment of a food safety authority along the lines of that in the US. Only such a body, providing consistent monitoring and - if need be - prosecution, could provide the reassurances required by the consumer.

Compassion in World Farming (CTWF) said yesterday it was appalled by the Consumers Association of Ireland findings on antibiotic residues in Irish pork, and called on the Minister for Agriculture to institute an inquiry into the pig industry here.

It also welcomed the proposals for the establishment of a new food safety board. Representatives of animal welfare groups should be represented on it, given the key role that animal welfare plays in the production of safe and high quality food, the organisation said in a statement.