Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 01 July, 1999
Written Answers. - Food Dioxin Incidence.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
153. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the presence of dioxins in food used in Ireland and the measures being taken at farm, importer, processing and distribution level to ensure no dioxins are present in food consumed within the State. [16306/99]
Mr. Stanton Mr. Stanton
158. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to products which have been withdrawn from sale in Belgium and other European states recently due to possible danger to consumers; if so, if he will give details in this regard; the products, if any, which were or are on sale here; the measures, if any, he has taken or will take in order to protect the consumer from possible damage from these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16005/99]
Dr. Moffatt Dr. Moffatt
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt): I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 158 together.
On 28 May 1999, the member states of the European Union were informed by the Commission via the rapid alert system of the contamination with dioxins of certain foodstuffs produced in Belgium. Contamination had been discovered in poultry feed, poultry and egg products. Concern was then expressed about the possible contamination of other food products.
On June 3 and 4 1999 respectively, the Commission adopted two decisions, 1999/363/EC and 1999/368/EC, on protective measures with regards to contamination by dioxins of (i) poultry and egg products and of (ii) products intended for human or animal consumption derived from bovine animals and pigs. These decisions require Belgium to prohibit the placing on the market of a range of listed products unless the products are not derived from holdings put under restriction by the Belgian authorities or the results of analysis indicate that the products are not contaminated with dioxin. The Belgian authorities were obliged to inform the Commission of the competent authorities to certify that produce is in compliance with these decisions.
Because of the possible risk to public health and because of our legal obligation under Commission decisions, the Department of Agriculture and Food detained suspect produce throughout the country and banned further imports. The Department of Health and Children banned the sale of suspect produce and issued an alert to retailers and health boards to withdraw and detain possible contaminated products on retail shelves. Consumers were advised to avoid eating Belgian products until clearance was received from the European Union.
There were certain delays in the European Commission receiving information from the Belgian authorities on certifying authorities, as required under the Commission decisions. On Friday 11 June, the Irish authorities received clarification on this issue and the information was immediately provided to Irish importers and retailers. A certification procedure is now in place for products under veterinary control, as set down in Commission Decision 1999/390/EC and products are being released onto the market as soon as the certification is cleared by the relevant Department.
Products not under veterinary control and detained since the adoption of the Commission decisions are being released by this Department on production of appropriate certification. Future import controls of these products are currently being discussed at EU level.
Prior to this information on certification, chocolate and chocolate fillings imported from Belgium for use by certain Irish handmade chocolate manufacturers were detained. The industry was very concerned because the short shelf life of these raw materials means that suspect product would be past its “best-before” date and there fore unfit for use if certification did eventually prove that product complied with the Commission decisions. Information on certification resolved this difficulty.
On 22 June 1999, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Brian Cowen, signed the Health (Prevention of Danger to Public Health) Regulations 1999 (S.I. No. 186 of 1999). These regulations placed further restrictions on the import and sale of products of Belgian origin suspected of dioxin contamination.
Ongoing monitoring of the situation is continuing and both Departments and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are operating in close association. The Deputies will understand that these precautions are necessary in the interest of public health and every effort is being made by both Departments concerned to ensure that product with appropriate certification is released onto the market with the minimum of delay.
Dáil Éireann 507 Written Answers. Food Dioxin Incidence.