Dáil Éireann - Volume 626 - 07 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Pesticide Controls.

Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the inspection regimes administered by her Department in relation to the mushroom growing industry; the frequency with which such inspections take place; the penalties in place for failure to comply with these departmental regulations; the number of such establishments found to be in breach of existing regulations in 2005 and 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36251/06]

Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the findings of her Departmental officials in relation to allegations of the use of illegal chemicals by companies (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the number of inspections carried out on all premises owned or leased by this grower group; the dates and locations of the premises inspected; the way she will investigate these allegations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36253/06]

  Mary Coughlan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 432 and 434 together.

The authorisation, marketing and use of plant protection products is controlled by the Department of Agriculture and Food by way of Statutory Instrument No. 83 of 2003. Residues of pesticides in food of plant origin, including mushrooms, are controlled by Statutory Instrument No. 179 of 1999. There is an annual pesticide residue monitoring programme agreed between the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Food Safety Authority (FSAI) which determines the number of samples of different food items to be analysed for pesticide residues. Since 2000, some 183 samples of mushrooms have been analysed for pesticide residues under the official monitoring programme. The [2060] results from 2000 to 2005 have been published and no maximum residue level (MRL) exceedance was detected during this time.

If there is a suspicion or an allegation of the illegal use of a plant protection product, then the Department of Agriculture and Food by way of its Pesticide Control Service carries out inspections to investigate the matter. Where illegal use occurs controls are applied as stipulated in Statutory Instrument No. 83 of 2003. The penalties in place for the illegal use of plant protection products are, on conviction, a fine of up to €5000 and/or six months imprisonment.

On foot of allegations made to my Department, an inspector from my Department visited one of its premises on 24/10/06. At the time of inspection no evidence of the illegal use of a plant protection product was detected. Also on the 24th of October a further premises of the company was visited. At the time of the visit there was no visible sign of activity at the premises so an inspection was not carried out. The inspections on the 24th of October were unannounced.

This company also participated in the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme up until 2005. The aim of this scheme is to set standards in relation to all aspects of production, handling, packing, storage and transport of produce. All participants undergo a minimum of one full inspection annually conducted by an independent National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) inspector against the Bord Bia standard for horticulture producers. This is a voluntary scheme.

I am satisfied that our pesticide controls which are governed by EU and national legislation are sufficiently robust to provide the consumer with the highest standards of food safety and to ensure that workers along the food chain are protected.