Minister moves to reassure Northern Ireland consumers

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BEEF from Northern Ireland is second to none and consumers should have every confidence in the supply chain here, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

She made her comments in the wake of the findings by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland of horse DNA in a range of meat products, including burgers, supplied to a number of large retailers.

The minister said she supports the efforts of the FSAI and the FSA to identify how equine DNA product has been incorporated in these products.

“However, I have no reason to believe that this is other than an isolated instance or that there are issues with beef processing in the north. I understand associated product has been withdrawn from supermarket shelves in the north,” she continued.

“We have an excellent beef processing industry, which meets the highest standards of hygiene, traceability and quality. It is founded on the long tradition in the north of grass fed beef from identified family owned farms.

“Our beef is second to none and consumers should have every confidence in the supply chain here. Much of our beef carried the Farm Quality Assured label giving further confidence. I would encourage local consumers to continue to support our industry and continue to buy and consume local produce.”

Meanwhile UFU President Harry Sinclair said the Union is ‘very concerned’ by recent developments.

“Our farming industry strives to produce the highest standard of fresh quality assured beef for consumers, which is fully traceable,” he said.

“We are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this particular case as investigations are ongoing but we will be working closely with the Food Standards Agency. However we are thankful that it is not a public health issue and does not pose any food safety risk to consumers.

“This situation really highlights the importance of supporting local farm quality assured beef with the traceability and quality that consumers expect. However it does raise serious questions about the pressure Tesco and other large retailers place on their suppliers to deliver in terms of price rather than other important factors such as quality and traceability which could lead to this type of thing happening.”

The UFU will be participating in a meeting with the Northern Ireland Food Standards Agency this afternoon to discuss the issue further.