THE European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Dr Tonio Borg, appeared before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development this week.
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson, Agriculture Co-ordinator for the ECR Group, used the opportunity to raise the EU-wide partial ban on sow stalls and the detection of horsemeat in products labelled as beef.
Speaking after the exchange of views in Brussels Mr Nicholson said: “The Health Commissioner’s portfolio covers many areas that affect the work of the Agriculture Committee and crucially the industry on the ground. The events of recent weeks prove just how true this is, the Commissioner’s visit was very timely and I appreciated the opportunity to raise a number of important issues with him. I once again raised concerns that many Member States remain noncompliant with the partial ban on sow stalls. Northern Ireland pig producers who have all complied at great expense are now left wondering if the Commission is either unwilling or unable to enforce its own welfare Directives.
“Since horse DNA was first detected in products labelled as beef in mid-January this story has continued to develop and unfold. From speaking with officials in Northern Ireland, London and Brussels there appear to be a number of recurring themes and I used the opportunity to question the Commissioner on these points.”
Mr Nicholson continued by outlining that he had asked the Commissioner if he felt there were enough controls governing the movement of horses and if there were adequate controls on meat brokers.
The MEP continued: “Recent revelations have highlighted the role of meat brokers and how food and its ownership can move between Member States and change hands at the click of a mouse - should we be looking at this? Several people have also raised concerns about the movement of horses and the potential implications of how this can be abused for profit.
“I feel that retailers must also accept their responsibilities in the supply chain as they are a major link within it. The issue of effective food labelling is key for consumer confidence, as is the need to get to the bottom of the criminality in the food supply chain. This is not a food safety issue but it is clear that the actions of a few in the supply chain are damaging confidence which is threatening to impact upon the vast majority who conduct their businesses properly. I made it very clear to the Commissioner of the need to reassure consumers in the days ahead plus I highlighted how important it is that the costs that arise from this saga are only shouldered by those found to be responsible for this situation arising, not by farmers or the wider supply chain as a whole - I feel very strongly that this should be the case.”