Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (72)

Denis Naughten

Question:

72. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the second Topical Issue of 6 March 2019, the steps he is taking to ensure the integrity of beef carcase grading in meat plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13975/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing. It specifies how on-the-spot checks shall be carried out in all slaughterhouses applying compulsory carcase classification. According to this legislation, on-the-spot checks shall be performed in all slaughterhouses which slaughter 150 or more bovine animals per week at least twice every three months. The legislation stipulates that each on-the-spot check shall relate to at least 40 carcasses selected at random.

Carcase classification controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department. Classification Officers conduct unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 beef slaughtering plants to ensure that Carcase Classification is carried out in accordance with EU Regulations.

The number of inspections conducted annually significantly exceeds the legal requirement set down in EU legislation. In 2018, my Department conducted almost 550 inspections. This is an average of 17 inspections per factory per year, which significantly exceeds the legal requirement of 8 inspections per year. At each inspection, an average of 85 carcasses were inspected for correct classification and carcase presentation. The legal requirement is 40 carcasses per inspection. I am satisfied therefore that the existing system significantly exceeds the requirements of the relevant EU Regulations.

Regarding new technologies, my Department is supervising an industry-led trial which is examining the latest technology in terms of cameras and lights for use in the mechanical classification system. The trial is examining the effectiveness of using digital cameras and LED lights as part of the carcase classification system. This trial is in an advanced stage. Subject to confirmation of its effectiveness, I would expect the industry to implement this technology in due course although this is a matter for commercial consideration. I have also asked my officials to explore the incorporation of factory machine records available on a daily basis, into the controls system.