Dáil Éireann - Volume 305 - 06 April, 1978

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Chemical Preservatives in Foodstuffs.

[246] 44. Mr. Boland asked the Minister for Health if he has received complaints regarding excessive usage of chemical preservatives in foodstuffs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Haughey: I have from time to time received complaints of the nature referred to by the Deputy from or through one individual. These complaints when considered have been found to be without substance.

Mr. Boland: Is the Minister aware that there have been a number of complaints made about the virtual contamination of foodstuffs through the addition of artificial preservatives and would he indicate if any investigation has been carried out by his Department into these allegations?

Mr. Haughey: Yes. I told the Deputy that any complaints I received were investigated and so far they have been found to be without any substance.

Mr. Boland: In every case?

Mr. Haughey: Yes.

Mr. Keating: Is the Minister aware that some market gardeners spray chemicals of this nature on food?

Mr. Haughey: Deputy Boland would know more about that than I would.

Mr. Keating: For the moment Deputy Boland does not have your responsibility. I hope he will have it in four years' time.

Mr. Boland: Shorter than that.

Mr. Keating: There is a warning in respect of some of these chemicals that the food on which they are sprayed should not be consumed within one or two weeks and there does not appear to be any monitoring or check on the time at which such food is consumed. It can be sprayed and then sold at the market in Dublin and eaten within 24 hours. That is an area which might concern the Minister.

[247] Mr. Haughey: I think the Deputy should not cause any alarm in this area.

Mr. Keating: I do not wish to do that.

Mr. Haughey: To what specific product is the Deputy referring?

Mr. Keating: I am talking about foodstuffs like lettuce on which anti-pest sprays could be used.

Mr. Haughey: This is a situation which is kept under constant review. We have a Food Advisory Committee and these matters are kept under close scrutiny. So far we have no grounds for alarm.

Dr. O'Connell: Has any official medical or veterinary expert called to the market gardeners in Rush?

Mr. Haughey: I could not say offhand but if it were thought necessary it would be done.

Mr. Keating: I would ask the Minister to have a look at it, in view of what I have said, as being a genuine possibility.

Mr. Haughey: I could not accept that it is a genuine possibility.

Mr. Keating: Does the Minister accept that it is possible for a market gardener today to spray his crops with an anti-pest substance, that such crops are not to be consumed within a fortnight, and that there is no way it can be guaranteed that the food will not be consumed within 48 hours?

Mr. Haughey: If one goes into a field and picks certain types of mushrooms one can be poisoned. I will not chase every hare the Deputy wishes to raise. We have an expert body responsible for this area and so far I am satisfied that there is no cause for complaint.

Mr. Keating: I was hoping the Minister would agree to have a look at this area.

Mr. Haughey: I will have a look at it. I will ask the Food Advisory Committee to have a look at it. I must [248] have regard to my responsibilities in this matter and I would not like it to go out from this House that I am worried about the situation in regard to a particular industry. I will look at it completely objectively and without prejudice.

Mr. Boland: The particular complaint made to me was in relation to imported apples from France which are treated with additional artificial preservatives in order to preserve their colour and appearance. The produce which goes on sale is not at all fresh and its condition is not as good as it should be. My question was in relation to imported foodstuffs. Could the Minister indicate whether he has had any complaints in that regard?

Mr. Haughey: Yes.

Mr. Boland: Were they found to be fruitless?

Mr. Haughey: Without substance.

Mr. Keating: Toxic or otherwise.