Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (13)

John McGuinness

Question:

13. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the names of the meat slaughtering and processing plants that have had their licences to operate suspended; if this is temporary or permanent; if there are further plants that will be refused permission to operate arising from the horsemeat scandal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21496/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The report on the ‘Equine DNA and Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation’, which I published on 14th March, includes details of the companies that came to my Department’s attention during this investigation and the actions taken by the Department.

As a result of the investigation activities were temporarily suspended by my Department at two plants. The plants in question were B&F Meats in Carrick-on-Suir, Co.Tipperary, and Ossory Meats, Banagher, Co Offaly. Both plants have since been allowed to resume activities, subject to an increased level of official controls. B&F Meats, a small scale plant approved to debone beef and horsemeat, was found to be involved in mislabelling of a limited quantity of horsemeat for export to the Czech Republic. The Department suspended all operations at the plant on 22nd February, served a Legal Notice on the company and the plant was included in the wider Department and Garda investigation. While fraudulent intent was denied by the company the use of what was known to be a wrong label designation is not acceptable practice and the question of instituting legal proceedings in this respect remains under consideration. Details of the findings were provided to the UK and Czech authorities. Following the plant’s compliance with the Legal Notice, it was in a position to resume deboning on 28th February.

As the equine mislabelling investigation progressed a separate but parallel investigation was conducted on horse slaughter plants and associated horse traceability. It was decided in that context to introduce more robust controls and it was agreed with the County Managers concerned that my Department would take direct control over the two local authority equine slaughter plants, including Ossory Meats. On Friday 8th March, the Department carried out identification checks on horses presented for slaughter at Ossory Meats. 25 of the horses presented had irregularities, related to passport and microchip identifiers. These animals were humanely slaughtered and destroyed. The company was suspended from operations on 13th March and allowed resume on 8th April following compliance with the terms of the Legal Notice which had been served. The ongoing investigation of this matter involves an examination to determine how and where the irregularities occurred and a focus on the respective roles played by the implicated Passport Issuing Agencies, the veterinarian(s) whose signatures appear on the irregular passports, the persons who registered the horses and to whom the passports were issued, the traders who supplied the horses for slaughter and of course the conduct and management oversight at Ossory Meats. Operations in two other plants were suspended on a voluntary basis during the course of the investigation and one of these plants remains closed.