Dáil Éireann - Volume 524 - 25 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Meat Imports.

134. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if all consignments of imported meat are monitored and traceable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23416/00]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): Products imported directly from third countries and from other member states are monitored on a regular basis. The controls in this area operated by my Department are based on EU harmonised rules governing the veterinary and zoo technical checks applicable to intra community and third country trade in live animals and animal products. These rules require a range of checks to be carried out and also provide for the imposition of restrictions on, or indeed the banning of trade in particular animal products when this is considered necessary for the protection of public health.

The Standing Veterinary Committee of the European Commission, in which experts from my Department participate, constantly monitors events in member states and third countries which are likely to have implications for public health.

At present EU harmonised rules require advance notification to my Department of animal product imports; that the goods must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate or, in certain cases, a commercial document; that the goods must come from an approved establishment, that is, a slaughterhouse, cutting plant or cold store which has been approved by the EU Commission; and that the goods may be subject to inspection by officials of my Department.

Imported agricultural products are sampled and analysed on a regular basis to ensure that they do not constitute a danger to public health. Third countries' imports are subject to a documentary, identity and physical check whilst goods coming from other member states are subject to random checks. Goods which are not in compliance with the veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination and if necessary destroyed.

The framework of veterinary checks provided for by harmonised EU rules, the implementation of those rules by my Department and the veterinary services of other member states, together with the constant programme of monitoring and review of public health risks provided for under the aegis of the Standing Veterinary Committee, are intended to provide assurance that imported animal products meet the requisite standards and are fit for human consumption, while allowing member states to fulfil their trade obligations as [1507] members of the European Union and the World Trade Organisation.