Dáil Éireann - Volume 598 - 02 March, 2005

Written Answers. - Poultry Industry.

  191. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if adequate traceability checks are applied in relation to poultry imports with particular reference to the need for health protection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7245/05]

  Mary Coughlan: Under harmonised EU legislation, a series of health and safety requirements are applied in the member states to ensure that animal products are produced to standards that guarantee the safety of food and the protection of human and animal health. Poultrymeat imported from third countries must meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in the EU. It must come from countries that have been approved for export to the EU and which have veterinary controls equivalent to those applicable in the EU, particularly in terms of legislation, hygiene conditions, animal health status, veterinary medicines controls, residues programmes, zoonoses controls and other food law.

The meat must be sourced from establishments that have standards equivalent to the requirements for EU export establishments and that have effective control systems and are supervised by the competent authorities. Meat imported from other EU countries is produced to the same standards as in Ireland and in accordance with veterinary legislation designed to ensure its safety.

A health certificate conforming to the models set down in EU legislation must accompany poultrymeat being imported from third countries. All consignments must first be landed at an approved border inspection post and undergo documentary, identity and physical checks. Once it has been established that the meat has met all the required conditions it is released for free circulation within the Community. Imports failing to comply with these veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination. If non-com[1570] pliance is established, they are returned to the exporting country or destroyed.

Safeguard measures to ensure the protection of human and animal health in the EU are introduced by the Commission as circumstances require. In this regard there are currently EU and national measures in place banning the importation of all live birds and fresh poultry meat from south east Asia because of the avian influenza situation in that region.

My Department last year introduced legislation requiring country of origin labelling of poultrymeat imported from non-EU countries. The name of the country of origin must appear on packaging or, in the case of poultrymeat displayed loose, on a nearby notice. In addition, details of the grade-class of the poultry, price per kg, whether fresh or frozen and the registered number of the slaughterhouse or cutting plant where the product was last handled must also be provided.

Consumers should be given maximum information on the origin of the food they are purchasing. I have this week along with other member states urged the Commission to examine EU labelling provisions to facilitate this, and in doing so, indicated the particular need for attention to be paid to the origin of poultry imports into the EU.