Dáil Éireann - Volume 606 - 04 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Food Industry.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
409. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if it is intended to promote Irish beef, lamb, pigmeat or chicken throughout the catering industry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26772/05]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan:Promotion and marketing of Irish beef, lamb, pigmeat and chicken comes under the remit of Bord Bia. The key element of its strategy in the catering industry is to promote beef, lamb, pigmeat and chicken through its Féile Bia programme. This is a voluntary programme for hotels, restaurants, pubs and workplaces that was developed by Bord Bia in conjunction with the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation and is supported by the farming community. There are currently over 1,400 members drawn from the food service sector participating in the programme.
While EU legislation does not permit the promotion of Irish origin products above those of other member state products, Féile Bia encourages the general public to think about how food is produced and where it comes from when eating out. Members of the programme source their products from suppliers approved under recognised quality assurance schemes. Products included in the programme are beef, lamb, pork, bacon, chicken and eggs. As an example of a Féile Bia promotion, Bord Bia is currently running a nationwide campaign to encourage the general public to choose Féile Bia outlets when eating out and know where their beef is coming from. Special prizes in Féile Bia hotels and guest houses are available. To support this autumn promotion, a nationwide advertising and publicity campaign is under way.
For the future, the aim is to significantly increase the existing membership base of 1,400 and broaden the product range. Beef has the most developed system of labelling in the EU, with a full identification, traceability and labelling system under comprehensive EU regulations.  The labelling requirements under those regulations extend up to and including retail level and to the point of delivery into hotels, restaurants and catering establishments. My priority in this area is to extend the existing beef labelling laws to require information on the country of origin of beef to be provided to all consumers in the restaurant and catering sectors. I put specific proposals to Government at the end of June for a legislative framework to facilitate this by way of an amendment to the Health Act 1947. This will be introduced under the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005, which is before the Oireachtas this session. The appropriate regulations are being worked on concurrently and it is my intention to have these cleared at EU level as soon as possible. When the Act is amended and the regulations made, country of origin information will be available to consumers in respect of all beef served in restaurants, hotels and the whole catering sector in Ireland on a mandatory basis.
In the meantime and after discussions with my Department, the various representative bodies, including the Irish Hotels Federation, the Restaurants Association of Ireland and both of the vintners groups, have all agreed to recommend to their members the introduction on a voluntary basis of a mechanism for providing consumers in their premises with information on the country of origin of the beef served there in advance of the mandatory legal requirement. This agreement was finalised last week and these organisations are currently at various stages of that process. I expect the voluntary system will be in place in the very near future. The next step in meat labelling is to extend the labelling requirements in law for poultrymeat, pigmeat and lamb in order to have similar provisions as those for beef. This is not a straightforward matter and will involve considerable complexities. EU approval would be required and there is no precedent so far for individual member states being allowed to extend meat labelling requirements internally beyond providing information that is already required in EU laws.
Dáil Éireann 606 Written Answers. Food Industry.