Rosemary Barton said: “We are facing a potentially very serious situation indeed. This ban was introduced over 25 years ago during the BSE crisis, and the EU is now poised to allow cheap pig protein to be fed to chickens. The European Commission has told MEPs that there are no health risks from allowing Processed Animal Protein (PAP) from pigs and insects to be fed to poultry. Chicken PAP can also be fed to pigs and the use of gelatine and collagen from sheep and cattle fed to other farm animals.
“The UK as a whole and Northern Ireland in particular, prides itself on adhering to the highest levels of food safety and that is why local produce is so highly valued and trusted both domestically and in the export market. In spite of the excellent quality of local produce, it was only in 2020 that the USA lifted a more than 20-year-old ban on the importation of Northern Ireland beef which had been imposed in the mid 1990s after the original BSE outbreak.
“We already have enough uncertainty thanks to the NI Protocol and it is therefore vital that we receive assurances from the UK Government as to what they plan to do now that the EU is taking this action. A number of questions arise. Does the UK intend to maintain the ban? Can the Government guarantee that this new EU policy will not be extended to Northern Ireland as part of the Protocol? Can the Government give assurances that this will have no impact on the importation of Northern Ireland produce to vital GB markets?
“We simply cannot allow food safety standards in Northern Ireland to fall below the rest of the UK and we need these questions answered as a matter of urgency in order to protect our local agri-food industry and maintain public confidence.”