Dáil Éireann - Volume 376 - 08 December, 1987

Written Answers. - Product Testing.

190. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health whether he proposes to take any special measures to protect the Irish consumer from the importation of items such as the Swiss cheese Vacherin Mont d'Or which has been shown to have had serious health consequences; whether such products are tested before importation; the frequency of such tests; if he has satisfied himself that adequate safeguards exist to meet health and safety requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Hanlon): The EC Commission operates an early warning system for contaminated foodstuffs circulating in the Community.

Under the system, information is disseminated by the Commission through a series of contact-points throughout the EC about foodstuffs which are on sale in the Community and which may have a [1112] serious risk to public health. The Department of Health is the contact point in this country and would take whatever measures are appropriate to protect public health in this country arising out of information received through the early warning system. The Department has available to it comprehensive statutory powers under the Health Acts 1947-70, the Food Hygiene Regulations 1950 and 1971 and the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, 1875-1936, to take the necessary action.

The health boards operate food sampling programmes under which foodstuffs are sampled regularly at the retail outlets and at points of entry to the country. These foodstuffs are analysed to ensure that they are safe for human consumption.

In relation to the Swiss cheese Vacherin Mont d'Or, the Department, having been informed of the public health risks associated with the products requested environmental health officers to visit relevant retail outlets to ensure that the product was not on sale and, if it was on sale, to arrange for its immediate removal. Importers and suppliers were also contacted.

I am satisfied that adequate safeguards exist to meet health and safety requirements and I will ensure that health boards continue to monitor the situation on a regular basis.