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"Food Matters Hugely to Ireland" - Smith

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today reiterated the importance of the food sector to the Irish economy.  Exporting 85 per cent of its agricultural output in products worth €7 billion in 2009, Minister Smith said "we have ambitions to increase exports to €10 billion by 2015."

The Minister was speaking at the opening of the International Association for Food Protection's Sixth European Symposium on Food Safety at UCD.  Speaking of the importance of food to this country, Minister Smith emphasised "the high priority which the Government affords to ensuring that its safety is guaranteed through robust regulatory enforcement underpinned by sound science and robust research." 

As evidence of the Government's commitment in this regard, the Minister pointed to the €140 million that has been awarded to food research projects across the island of Ireland since 2000 by the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM), operated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Minister Smith also referred to the diverse range of staff from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who are "centrally involved in the regulation of the food supply chain both at the policy and enforcement level, many of whom are located at the Department's new state-of-the-art laboratory complex at Backweston, Co Kildare."  The Minister expressed the hope that the laboratories can, over time, "become more fully integrated into the food research fabric of the country."

Referring to increasing globalisation of trade and increasing competition in the international market place, the Minister said that "the challenges facing the food industry and food regulators today are enormous."  Minister Smith also spoke of both the opportunities and the challenges being posed by changing lifestyles which he said are "also having a major impact creating a consumer demand for more minimally processed foods and healthy foods which requires a fine balance between the application of modern technologies designed to preserve the nutritional benefits in foods and the associate food safety challenges."

The Minister also paid tribute to the work done both by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and SafeFood in terms of protecting public health and consumer interests in the area of food safety and hygiene and the promotion of food safety on the island of Ireland.

Date Released: 09 June 2010