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Written Answers. - Food Safety Standards.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 62. Mr. Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring  asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh  his plans to introduce rigorous testing, control and full traceability on all meat imports. [18642/02]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh My Department has arrangements in place at main ports and airports to check compliance with the relevant import requirements as specified under EU and national legislation. These measures constitute an essential control on the importation of animal products from third countries. Products of animal origin may, in the first instance, only be imported into the European Union from countries and from premises which have been approved by the European Commission. The veterinary services in these countries – and the hygiene and health arrangements in such premises – are subject to inspection by the EU food and veterinary office. Countries and premises may be removed from the EU approved list by Commission decision in cases where the food and veterinary office is not satisfied that the country or premises is adhering to EU veterinary and public health requirements.

In addition, EU law requires animal based products imported from third countries to be processed through a border inspection post in the first EU member state into which it is introduced and, following clearance, they enter into free circulation within the EU. Such products must be accompanied by appropriate veterinary health certification issued by the authorities in the country from which it is being exported and are subject to identity and documentary checks. A proportion is subjected to physical checks, which may include sampling and analysis for residues of illegal substances etc. In addition, the EU Commission may, from time to time, require [1172] additional checks on particular products from particular countries of origin, where there is any specific cause for concern.

In so far as labelling is concerned, the products must be marked with a health mark containing the initials of the exporting country and the approval number of the consigning establishment within an oval surround. Additional labelling requirements apply in respect of bovine meat products. Such products must be labelled with a reference number or code identifying the animal or group of animals from which the beef was derived, the name of the third country and the approval number of the slaughterhouse at which the animal or group of animals was slaughtered, the name of the third country and the approval number of the cutting hall at which the carcass or group of carcasses was cut and the name of the third country where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered.

In response to growing concern relating to food labelling, I have established a group to examine the current labelling framework in the context of consumers' expectations and, in particular, to identify whatever gaps there are either in existing legislation or the manner in which it is implemented.

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