Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (644, 645, 646, 647)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

644. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the date on which he has first made aware of the adulteration of processed food products with horse meat; the action he took on foot of this notification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9681/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

645. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the date on which his Department was first made aware of the possible adulteration of processed food products with horse meat; the action taken on foot of this notification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9682/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

646. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the date on which the Food Safety Authority of Ireland first became aware of the adulteration of food products with horse meat; the reason he was not the lead Minister dealing with this issue as responsibility for both food safety and the FSAI rests with his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9684/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

647. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health as the Minister with responsibility for food safety, if he is satisfied with the integrity of the ingredients of Irish processed black and white puddings and sausages and that no adulteration of these products is taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9685/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 644 to 647, inclusive, together.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), as part of their monitoring and surveillance programme on labelling of foods, carried out a small survey in November 2012 to investigate the authenticity of meat products and, specifically, to check on the type of animal species in meat products. A total of 27 beef burger products were analysed. The FSAI then arranged further intense testing of the samples to validate the correctness of the initial analysis and to quantify the amount of horse DNA in each sample - the results of these tests were received on 11 January 2013. These results showed that, of the 10 burgers found to contain horse DNA, one contained 29% horsemeat, another 0.3% and the remainder had less than 0.1%. Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from other Member States. The FSAI communicated this information to the Department of Health on the 14th January 2013. The FSAI confirmed at the time that there were no food safety issues.

As this was not a food safety issue and there was no threat to public health it was proper that the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine took the lead role with regard to the incident as they have primary responsibility relating to primary food processing. Accordingly, since the initial test results were confirmed, that Department has conducted further tests on numerous establishments to identify the exact source of the equine DNA and work is ongoing in this regard. Furthermore, the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine has initiated and led a rapid and collective response to the horsemeat incident in Europe in his capacity as President of Council of Agriculture Ministers.

While this is not a food safety issue, officials from my Department are in daily contact with the FSAI in relation to the ongoing horsemeat incident in Europe to ensure there remains no threat to public health. Since January, extensive sampling and testing of beef products by both regulatory authorities and the food industry has been undertaken. Testing is continuing in Ireland and elsewhere. A major EU wide programme of testing of beef products for the presence of equine DNA is now underway. While many sausage and black and white puddings are pork rather than beef based products, to date no evidence has emerged to suggest they are the subject of adulteration.