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Minister Smith publishes report of Inter-Agency Review Group established to examine the Dioxin Contamination Incident

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today published the report of the Inter-Agency Review Group, chaired by Dr Patrick Wall, Associate Professor of Public Health at UCD established to examine the dioxin contamination incident, which occurred at the end of 2008.

The report of the Review Group, which took into account the findings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as well as direct submissions received, sets out some 39 conclusions and recommendations.

The Report highlighted the fact that "primary responsibility under legislation to produce safe feed and food rests with feed and food business operators."  It points in particular to the inadequacy of the feed business operators safety management system and also to inadequacies in the inspection regime.  One of the main recommendations is that the remit of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) should be extended to include animal feed controls, which at present is not covered by the contract arrangement between the Department and the FSAI.

Minister Smith noted that the report concluded that "there was no delay in the handling of the incident from 19th November and all of the actions taken were proportionate and prompt."  In relation to the product recall, the report said that the "action taken by the relevant public authorities was swift and decisive", a view subsequently endorsed by both the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority.

Because of the speed and nature of the actions taken by the Irish public authorities and the industry "public confidence was restored quickly". The report also concluded that, in the management of the incident, "the protection of consumer health was rightly the overriding priority".

Minister Smith said that a number of the issues raised in the report had already been identified by his Department, particularly in relation to animal feed controls and risk assessment procedures, and the Department had already amended the 2009 Animal Feed Inspection Programme to

  • assign a higher risk category to the drying of feed and to grain drying operators
  • place greater emphasis on the checking of feed safety management plans, based on *HACCP principles, which feed business operators are required to draw up and implement
  • remind operators involved in the drying of grain and feed that only particular fuels (gas, diesel & kerosene) should be used for such drying.

He also pointed out that the Department had reminded feed business operators of their obligation, under the Feed Hygiene Regulations, to take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of the feed chain.

The Minister said the Report acknowledges that once the incident was identified by official Department controls it was handled well from both a public health perspective and in terms of safeguarding Ireland's reputation as a producer of safe, high quality produce. The Report nevertheless highlights issues to be addressed for the future.  In conjunction, where appropriate, with the Minister for Health and Children, Minister Smith undertook to ensure these issues and recommendations were pursued by the relevant authorities. He pointed out that there are also issues for food and feed business operators in terms of the requirements for own checks and steps to limit financial exposure in the event of any future product recalls.

The report is available on the Department's web-site at www.agriculture.ie

Note for Editors

*Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

Link to Report

Date Released: 19 January 2010