Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 13 November, 1996

Written Answers. - Food Quality Reports.

156. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will list all the unpublished reports which have been compiled to date in his Department in relation to food quality, stating in each case when the report was completed; the purposes of such a report; the action, if any, which was taken as a a result of such reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21224/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Presumably this question relates to reports on the presence of inhibitory substances in foodstuffs. The position in this regard is that in accordance with a series of EU regulations and directives my Department is required to carry out testing programmes for residues of pesticides, veterinary medicines, including hormones and antibiotics, and heavy metals and to compile, and submit annually, to the EU Commission reports on the results obtained under these programmes.

While, in the case of veterinary medicines and heavy metals, the test results are not published they are supplied to interested parties on request. A summary of the results obtained under the pesticide residue programmes for the years 1990-95 was published last week. More detailed results are currently being collated in reader friendly form for the years 1994, 1995 and 1996 for publication in early 1997.

As the foregoing indicates, these reports are not of an investigative nature. However, if, in the course of a testing programme, any of the samples examined are found to contain residues of either prohibited substances or of permitted substances at levels above the maximum recommended or permitted levels further investigations are undertaken and, where sufficient evidence can be established to enable me to do so, legal proceedings are instituted.

As I have already stated publicly on several occasions recently both my Department and I are totally committed to ensuring that inhibitory substance residues in food are reduced or eliminated altogether as appropriate.

157. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will publish reports compiled by his Department for each of the years from 1994 to 1996 in relation to pesticides in meat and vegetables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21226/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): While I have recently published summary results of the analysis of samples of raw agricultural produce for pesticide residues levels covering both 1994 and 1995, detailed annual [1078] reports for 1994, 1995 and 1996 will be published in early 1997. In the meantime, I have arranged for detailed results of the 1994 and 1995 national monitoring programme for pesticide levels to be placed in the Dáil Library.

In future pesticide residues test results will be available on a quarterly bais.

158. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when his attention was drawn to the findings of an unpublished report to his Department which showed excessive levels of antibiotic residues in pork products surveyed; the action, if any, he took and the action, if any, he proposes to take in view of the fact that the information had implications for public health and should have been reported to the Minister for Health and to himself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21227/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I understand the Deputy is referring to the article in the Examiner of 1 November 1996, which alleged the existence and suppression of “a secret Department of Agriculture report” on residues in pigmeat in 1995. I have already indicated that no such report was either commissioned by or submitted to my Department and I attach a copy of a statement by my Department on the matter for the Deputy's information.

As indicated in this statement, tests are carried out on an ongoing basis to monitor pigmeat for antibiotic residues. It is accepted that while the action taken to deal with the higher level of antibiotic residues as disclosed by monitoring earlier this year was effective, a clear difficulty was created by the fact that consumers were not informed of the problem. For the future, I intend to issue global results of residue testing on a quarterly basis.

The Deputy will be aware that it is my objective to secure the total elimination of antibiotic residues in pigmeat in order to ensure full compliance with legal requirements and to allay consumer concerns. Following my demand for action, agreement has been reached between the representatives of the main producers and processors on the introduction of enhanced measures to deal with antibiotic residues. My Department is committed to rigorously applying tighter controls in this area and to prosecuting those who fail to observe the relevant requirements.