The Food Fortress programme is adding significant value to food produced in Northern Ireland according to Dr Simon Haughey of the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University Belfast.
Speaking at a review meeting for members in Armagh, Dr Haughey reported that with over 70 feed businesses now in membership the safety of our milk, meat and eggs is assured as never before.
Around four million tonnes of compound feed including all the mills in Northern Ireland, 13 businesses in southern Ireland and four in England are now covered by the scheme.
He also pointed out that this gives 100% coverage of the compound feed consumed in Northern Ireland.
He reported that the 2014/15 program which had maintained a close surveillance across the principal contaminants which threaten the food chain had indicated no major issues to threaten animal welfare or human health.
His report did however recommend that mycotoxin testing should be maintained at a high level, particularly on feeds intended for species which have a low tolerance for these toxins.
In the “could do better” category he reported that the compliance of members in submitting samples on the due date was 96%. He proposed that sanctions or measures should be employed to ensure 100% compliance in the future.
Robin Irvine, Food Fortress coordinator, gave members an update on progress and outlined plans for the development of the scheme. The level of communication and sharing of information with the DARD feed inspectorate was very pleasing. A protocol has been agreed, and signed by both parties, on the sharing of risk assessments and test results. This will ensure better detection and more effective management of contamination events that may occur.
Further development of the scheme would include sampling of imported feed materials at landing, sampling of native grains delivered to feed mills and the set up of a steering committee covering a cross section of the membership to direct progress.
He welcomed Mrs Una Davey from InvestNI and acknowledged the assistance of that organisation through their collaborative networks program.