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DAFM Statement on Garda Investigation Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation into alleged offences of deception surrounding fraudulent practices regarding tampering of identification passports and microchips of horses presented for slaughter in this jurisdiction.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine maintains a permanent presence of an official veterinarian and a technical team in all its approved slaughter plants, including the 2 DAFM approved horse slaughter plants.  All slaughterhouses whose meat is destined for human consumption must meet the detailed requirements set out in the EU food safety regulations, generally referred to as the ‘Hygiene Package’. These regulations are implemented in Ireland under the European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2009, S.I. No 432 of 2009.

The range of checks carried out include identification and ownership of live animals, food hygiene checks, animal welfare and transport, animal remedies and checks on the disposal of animal by-products.

It should be noted that the onus of compliance with EU food safety regulations, including traceability requirements, rests in the first instance with food business operators. In meat plants that operate under the supervision of the Department, official controls are conducted on these checks to verify their effectiveness. 

In relation to the slaughter of equines, no equines can be slaughtered unless there is a record of it on the central equine database, which is part of the Department’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system. When an equine is presented for slaughter, the system is checked to ensure that the database records the animal as being eligible for the food chain. Where this is not the case or where the information on the database differs from the passport in that regard, the equine is excluded from the food chain and cannot be slaughtered.

All equines presented for slaughter must be accompanied by a completed Food Chain Information declaration, signed by the presenting keeper. All equines presented at slaughter plants undergo ante-mortem examination by DAFM to ensure they are fit for slaughter.  The physical equine is compared to the information recorded on the passport, including the marking chart completed by the veterinarian at the time of initial identification.

All equines are scanned for a microchip and the details of any microchip(s) detected are compared against the data on the passport and are recorded by DAFM personnel.

If the microchip does not match the number recorded on the passport or if additional microchips are detected that are not recorded on the passport, the equine is excluded from the food chain. Passports are also examined by DAFM officials for evidence of tampering.

Post mortem examinations are also undertaken on all slaughtered equines. The removal of microchips from equine carcasses is supervised by DAFM personnel to ensure that only the microchip(s) recorded on the passport are present. If additional microchips are discovered, the animal is automatically excluded from the food chain.

In the event of detection of non-compliance, appropriate action is taken by DAFM. In relation to the slaughter of horses, if DAFM inspectorate has determined that horses are not eligible for the food chain, those animals are excluded from the food chain. This enforcement demonstrates the robustness of the official controls of the Department. 

DAFM and the FSAI are supporting an on-going investigation being conducted by members of The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation into offences of deception pursuant to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Offences Act, 2001, in relation to alleged fraudulent practices regarding tampering of identification passports and microchips of horses presented for slaughter in this jurisdiction. 

It is not appropriate to comment further on this investigation at this time.

 

ENDS

Date Released: 06 June 2019