Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (569)

Éamon Ó Cuív


569. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, following a request from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to his Department on 21 December 2012 to obtain samples of raw ingredients from two meat processing plants implicated in the adulteration of food products with horsemeat, this matter was brought to his attention and to the attention of the Department of Health, which has responsibility for food safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9686/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As I indicated in my detailed statement on this matter to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 5th February, the finding of 29% equine DNA in a burger first became available to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 11th January and was made available to my Department on 14th January. Up to that point there was no basis for any action. My Department was requested on 21st December by the FSAI to obtain samples of raw ingredients in the context of the FSAI survey on the authenticity of meat products, preliminary results of which indicated traces of non-bovine DNA. My Department was requested by the FSAI not to take any other action as results were inconclusive and required further evaluation by the FSAI. In this context the FSAI has pointed out that where trace levels are detected this is indicative of inadvertent rather than deliberate presence and not requiring declaration on the product label. It is and always has been standard practice that preliminary results are subject to a process of confirmatory testing.

Having regard to the range of sampling activity taking place at any given time, the lack of any public health concern, the inconclusive nature of the results and the trace level findings, the request of the FSAI on 21st December 2012 to obtain samples of raw ingredients was not regarded as approaching the priority level at which it would be appropriate that it be brought to my attention. When the FSAI provided my Department with actual results including the 29% finding for the first time on 14th January 2013 it was brought to my attention. I understand from the Department of Health that the FSAI notified that Department of its request to obtain samples on 21st December 2012. It stressed, however, that there were no public health concerns and that no further action was required at that time.