Dáil Éireann - Volume 476 - 25 March, 1997
Written Answers. - Animal Health Controls.
Ms O'Donnell Ms O'Donnell
165. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Health the steps, if any, his Department has taken to protect public health arising out of a report by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, about high levels of antibiotic residue in pork products in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8366/97]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East) Michael Noonan
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): The veterinary services of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and, where appropriate, the veterinary services operated by local authorities under the Abattoirs Act, 1988, are responsible for animal health controls as well as the pre and post mortem inspection of animals in slaughter houses. These inspections are concerned with general animal health and welfare, meat inspection and the testing of meat for the presence of antibiotics, growth promoters and other prohibited substances.
My Department, through the health boards, controls the sale of meat at retail level under the food hygiene regulations. In addition, the health boards enforce a wide range of other regulations on my behalf in respect of food additives and contaminants.
My Department has been concerned about the reports of antibiotic residues in meat. Not only can such residues induce reactions in some people, they can also have the effect of increasing resistance to medicines administered for human illness.
I understand in recent months, the pigmeat producers and processors have been made aware by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, that he is committed to the total elimination of antibiotic residues to ensure both full compliance with legal requirements and to allay the concerns of consumers. I have been assured the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will rigorously apply the controls in this area which have recently been tightened and of which both producers and processors are by now well aware.
My Department does not have any direct function in relation to the control of antibiotic residues. This is exactly the type of issue which will come within the remit of the new Food Safety Authority of Ireland which will operate under my aegis. The Authority's primary function will be to monitor the implementation of food controls operated by the various official agencies to ensure that food safety and the interests of consumers in this regard are at the top of the agenda. The Authority, which will be independent of the existing food control agencies, will have all the necessary powers to ensure that it can evaluate the effectiveness of control systems, enforce compliance with its audit findings and have power to take action for failure by persons or agencies to  observe the highest food safety standards available.
I am satisfied that the new Authority will meet the needs for consumer protection in this area and play an important role in stamping out unacceptable practices in regard to antibiotics and other substances.
Dáil Éireann 476 Written Answers. Animal Health Controls.