Dáil debates

Thursday, 26 November 2009

4:00 pm

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin North, Green Party)

I share the annoyance of Deputy Doyle in that I had hoped these tests would have been carried out more quickly. However, I am not a microbiologist and I do not know if the Deputy is one. We are taking the best advice available to us from the Irish Equine Centre. It has been contracted by the Department because it has the capability to carry out the tests to a standard that would give us the clout to take the action the Deputy is seeking, if that is warranted. For that reason, I have pressed this matter when I have been asked this question. I am advised the results will be concluded by next week at which point the issue will be taken up.

There is an interesting lacuna in legal terms in that the use by date must be displayed on a product, but the law does not specify the duration of the shelf life of a product. Normally, Irish processors apply a seven-day or eight-day shelf life to their products but with the use of gas-flushed technology, products can have a much longer shelf life. A shelf life of up to two or three weeks may be permissible on the basis of microbiological evidence.

I take Deputy Doyle's point that this is a serious matter but I do not want to overstate it. It is a matter that must be followed up with action, but it can only be action taken on the basis of comprehensive testing, the results of which we have to await. We will have those next week.

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