I propose to take Questions Nos. 363 to 365, inclusive, together.
To date, in 2019 officers from the Carcase Classification Division conducted over 580 inspections across 32 factories (mechanical and manual grading plants) and over 50,000 carcasses were inspected. In the mechanical grading plants only, there were 420 inspections on 43,000 carcasses across 23 factories.
During these inspections, officers also monitored compliance with the EU reference carcase presentation specification. To date, in 2019, there has been non-compliance found with the carcase trim specification in relation to one factory. The factory has been named on my Department's website.
On the spot fines were issued in relation to this non-compliance. Any compensation payments made to a Farmer Supplier, including in relation to issues such as this, are a matter between the Farmer/Supplier and the Processor/plant.
Regarding the suspension of mechanical grading, this occurred on six occasions and the factories were instructed to revert to manual grading.
Regarding the publishing of information and trial results, my Department fully endorses and supports the objective of ensuring a robust system of carcass classification and maintaining the confidence of farmers in it.
The requirement for the modification trial conducted in Slaney Meats and the subsequent report, ‘Independent Report on the modification trial of the Mechanical Beef Classification System currently in use in Ireland’, was to ensure compliance with the EU legislation regarding a modification to the technical specifications of the current classification system.
The EU legislation requires that any modification to a system must ensure a level of accuracy that at least fulfils the minimum requirements for an authorisation test. This trial was supervised by an Independent Expert who concluded that the results are beyond what is required in the EU legislation to approve such modifications and he confirmed that this trial significantly exceeds what is required where classification equipment is being modified rather than being authorised for the first time.
As per the legislation underpinning this trial when evaluating the performance of a classification machine, the machines’ grades are compared against expert classification officer grades. While there is no requirement in the legislation to compare the performance of the modified system against any other mechanical classification system, for completeness and transparency the report shows the performance of the current system (old machine) when compared to the expert graders, which also should be noted, performed to a very high standard.