Ireland Needs Better Pig Meat Traceability

IRELAND - The present system for monitoring and tracing Irish pork products is ineffective and significant changes are required in order to avoid a repeat of the total recall of Irish pork products which has resulted in a cost of millions of euro in compensation payments to the Irish taxpayer.
calendar icon 28 May 2009
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This is one of the findings of the report published on Tuesday, by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The report arises from the committee’s extensive examination of the impact and consequences of the dioxin contamination of Irish pork products late last year and was compiled following consultation with a range of interested parties from relevant sectors.

The committee specifically examined the effectiveness of the existing traceability system, the monitoring of the licensed feed premises, the proportionality of the response and the way forward for the industry.

Committee Chairman, Johnny Brady TD said, "The pigmeat industry in Ireland is of huge significance. In 2007, 188,000 tonnes of pigmeat were produced in Ireland valued at €368 million, while the industry also employs 7,000 people. It is because of this significance that the Committee decided to undertake this investigation into the dioxin contamination incident, with a view to identifying lessons for the future."

The report makes a series of findings and recommendations including:

  • The current traceability regime for Irish pork and pork products is not working. An effective traceability system would have facilitated a recall of contaminated product only. This was not possible in the dioxin contamination incident which necessitated a 100 per cent recall of product for a 10 per cent contamination rate;
  • The absence of an effective traceability scheme could mean the Irish taxpayer may end up paying financial aid to processors for pork which is not of Irish origin;
  • The Committee urges the reversal of the proposal to amalgamate the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) with Irish Medicines Board and the Office of Tobacco Control. The Committee feels that amalgamation could endanger the reputation and focus of the organisation;
  • The numerous agencies responsible for food safety operating under service level agreements with the FSAI is not satisfactory. A single agency for both food and animal feed should be considered.
  • The remit of the FSAI should be extended to cover the feed chain;
  • It is unacceptable that the food recycling plant at the centre of the contamination incident was not inspected at all in 2008;
  • A pilot study should be conducted of a batch recall of Irish pigs and a report compiled on the study to assess its feasibility;
  • The Committee has some concerns about the compensation package put in place following the recall. Producers must receive compensation in a timely fashion, financial aid to the artisan producers must be fast tracked as this sector can effect full traceability. The committee also condemns the practice of some retailers who have attempted to seek compensation from producers for loss of profit as well as cost of product recalled.

Committee Chairman, Johnny Brady TD said, "Less than 10 per cent of pork products were potentially affected by the contaminated feed. However, because of the absence of a forensic traceability regime 100 per cent of products had to be recalled. This is likely to cost the Irish taxpayer hundreds of millions in compensation payouts."

"This is a scenario which the committee feels has to be avoided in the future," said Mr Brady.

"While the committee acknowledges that traceability to the extent applicable to the beef sector would be difficult to achieve in the pigmeat industry, the committee feels that full traceability is possible for primary processing products from pork and bacon. This could facilitate more targeted and specific responses in the future and add further protection to the production of Irish pork," he added.

During the course of its deliberations the committee held fifteen meetings with over fifty individuals from the state agencies, statutory bodies, and the voluntary sector. Among the groups who attended these meetings are; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of Health and Children, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the European Food Safety Authority, Irish Farmers’ Association, IBEC, Carlow County Council and the Irish Grain and Feed Association.

The report will be given to the Minster for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith TD for his consideration and to advise him on any future action in this area.

Further Reading

- You can view the report by clicking here.
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