I propose to take Questions Nos. 550 and 551 together.
At the outset, I wish to make very clear that the procedures operated by my Department are designed to ensure that the highest standards apply to all areas of Irish organic production. The award of organic status is secured by a formal certification process delegated by my Department to various Organic Control Bodies in accordance with the relevant EU regulations. The certification process involves regular inspection of all organic operators, production techniques and sampling of organic produce to ensure compliance with all EU requirements.
The inspection process for producers of organic salmon is extremely detailed and includes adherence to a range of core organic principles, as well as stocking levels, feeding practice, caging standards, traceability and fish-welfare & husbandry amongst other things. Organic aquaculture sites are also subject to the standard inspection regime applying to conventional producers by the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. In addition, all Organic Control Bodies are independently accredited by an external accreditation body.
In 2016, the certification system for organic salmon in Ireland was included in a comprehensive audit by the EU of the controls applied by Ireland in the Organic Sector generally. The EU audit team made some recommendations which have been implemented and which further strengthened our control system across the board.
I am satisfied that the measures outlined above are robust enough to provide meaningful assurance to consumers who purchase salmon from organic farms.
With regard to investigations by my Department, as legal proceedings have been initiated in a certain instance, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.