Written answers

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Animal Disease Controls

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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24. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied that every effort has been made over the past six years to prevent any possible recurrence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, with particular reference to the use of feed compounds; that no banned practices have continued; that any animals imported are subjected to the most rigorous testing to prevent any recurrence of the disease; if he is satisfied regarding the degree to which traceability measures are adequate to prevent any recurrence and regarding the adequacy of laboratory facilities to monitor the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26057/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Ireland’s BSE surveillance and controls are thorough, effective and consistent with legal requirements and best international practice. The dramatic reduction in the prevalence of BSE from a peak of 333 cases in 2002 is proof of that.  The effectiveness of the system is further evidenced by the identification of the recent BSE case – and while it is disappointing to identify this isolated case now, it is not wholly unexpected that an occasional case of BSE could arise from time to time here or in other countries.

The controls in place include a ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to ruminants, effective rendering processes, testing of feed supplies, active and passive surveillance, testing for the disease (including testing of all fallen animals over 48 months of age; and of animals over 30 months of age imported from countries specified in EU regulation – currently Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia), ante mortem checks on all animals prior to slaughter, and the removal and destruction, on a precautionary basis, of specified risk materials from slaughtered animals.

The epidemiological investigation of the recent isolated case has confirmed inter alia that no concerns arise regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems. In the 2009 and 2010 period, when the animal was born, more than 3,800 feed inspections took place, and almost 2,500 feed samples, including 52 from suppliers to the farm on which the positive case was found, were tested for the presence of processed animal proteins. All tested negative for meat and bone meal. Test results from feed currently on the farm are also negative.

A robust bovine traceability system is in place in Ireland which facilitates tracking of the provenance of any detected BSE case, progeny and contacts of same.  The robustness of the traceability measures operable in Ireland is evidenced by the ability to trace details pertaining to the most recent case, her progeny and cohorts.

Laboratory facilities are also in place in Ireland to monitor BSE, including monitoring of animal feedingstuffs. Screening tests for TSE are done in accordance with EU Directive 999/2001. Testing is only done in laboratories that have been approved by the Competent Authority on the recommendation of the National Reference Laboratory for TSE following a rigorous approval process. 

The OIE has stated that it very much respects the integrity and transparency demonstrated by Ireland in providing preliminary information on this recent case. It further commends the commitment to the protection of animal and human health as demonstrated by the effectiveness of the ongoing BSE surveillance program and the controls in place that prevented any part of the animal from entering the human food or animal feed chain.

We know that our reputation as a producer of safe sustainable beef is paramount and our regulatory and food safety systems are there to provide those assurances. I continue to have confidence that the controls being applied by my Department are among the best in the world.


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