Written answers

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Department of Health

Veterinary Inspection Service

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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163. To ask the Minister for Health the reason small abattoirs are required to have veterinary inspectors present during operation; when this was introduced; the reason it is necessary; the differences made for small independent producers and the large meat processors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37196/20]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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All slaughterhouses are required to have official veterinarians present to examine animals before slaughter (ante-mortem) to ensure they are fit for slaughter for human consumption and that animal health and welfare legislation is complied with, including requirements for traceability. Slaughterhouses are also required to have official veterinarians present to examine the carcases of slaughtered animals post-mortem to check for evidence of disease and traces of illegal substances, to verify compliance with hygiene requirements and to stamp the carcases with a health mark to verify that they are suitable for human consumption. These checks are fundamental to maintaining the safety of the supply of meat and to protect public health.  Policy concerning animal health and welfare rests with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Meat inspection by official veterinarians has been legislated for at European level since 1964 (Directive 64/432/EEC) and in Ireland for the smaller slaughterhouses since 1988 (Abattoirs Act 1988). The current legal framework for meat inspection is Regulation (EU) 2017/625 and implementing legislation (Regulations (EU) 2019/624 and 2019/627), as given effect to by the European Union (Food and Food Hygiene) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 22 of 2020).

In Ireland, large slaughterhouses are supervised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and smaller ones by the Local Authorities – in each case the official food controls take place under a service contract between the respective official agency and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. 

The Regulations governing hygiene requirements in slaughterhouses, for which DAFM has policy responsibility, apply to large and small slaughterhouses, though there is scope for some flexibility for small producers in Regulation (EU) 853/2004 on the hygiene of foods of animal origin provided that the appropriate high standards of hygiene are achieved. In line with this flexibility, the smaller local authority-supervised slaughterhouses tend not to have a permanent veterinary attendance during slaughter, whereas the larger DAFM-supervised slaughterhouses tend to have a permanent veterinary presence.

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