Dáil Éireann - Volume 647 - 19 February, 2008

Written Answers. - Animal Welfare.

Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that has been made on an all-Ireland approach to animal health and safety, food safety and imports from outside the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6797/08]

  Deputy Mary Coughlan: Co-operation in the development of an all-island animal health and welfare strategy has progressed through the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and by a number of working groups which continued to meet during the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The following decisions on cross Border co-operation in animal health and welfare were taken at an NSMC Agriculture Sectoral meeting on 9th November 2007.

The Council

recognised the important work that has been undertaken to develop an all-island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy;

noted the all-island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy paper developed by the North/South Animal Health and Welfare Steering Group and which includes a list of initial activities for delivery of key elements of the strategy with various milestones and deadlines for the immediate period ahead;

agreed that the way forward is through co-operation and the development of complementary policies;

agreed that the free movement of animals on the island continues to be the ultimate aim of an animal health and welfare strategy; and

requested officials to continue to oversee progress on delivery of the initial activities of the Strategy and to identify further issues to progress the Strategy for approval at the next NSMC sectoral meeting.

In relation to co-operation on food safety, the Food Safety Promotion Board, safefood, was set up under the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999. It has a statutory remit with respect to food safety on the island of Ireland including promotion; research; communication of food alerts; surveillance of food borne diseases; promotion of scientific co-operation and linkages [722] between laboratories; and the provision of an independent assessment, through independent scientific advice, of the safety and hygiene of food produced, distributed or marketed on the island of Ireland. Since its establishment safefood has undertaken a number of extensive programmes which seek to further enhance food safety knowledge and increase capacity building across the island of Ireland.

In the exercise of its functions safefood works closely with the competent authorities in Ireland and Northern Ireland, namely the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Food Standards Agency, respectively. Through various programmes and projects safefood has collaborated with, and built strong relationships with, the respective Departments of Agriculture on the island. safefood has a corporate philosophy of adding value to the activities of other stakeholder bodies in the food chain and liaises with departments of Environmental Health in both jurisdictions, industry as well as consumer bodies.

The conditions for import into the EU of live animals and products of animal origin from third countries are harmonised under EU Regulations and are being applied in both Ireland and N. Ireland. Imports may only enter the territory of EU through Border Inspection Posts (BIP) approved by the EU where veterinary inspection controls are applied. Moreover imports are permitted only from approved and listed third countries, or regions of those countries and, in the case of animal products, from approved export establishments. The EU rules have also harmonised the import veterinary certification requirements.

Having satisfied the entry control at a BIP imports are then free to move in intra-community trade. The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Commission carries out audits the operation of controls in the Member States, and in third countries, and publishes reports of its findings on its website. There is dialogue between the services operating EU import controls.