‘Appalled but not surprised’ – ICSA on sheepmeat mislabelling

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to explain the circumstances that led to sheepmeat from the UK being mislabelled as being from Ireland.

It was revealed last Friday, on foot of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request made by Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, Matt Carthy, that a case involving ‘mislabelling UK ovine as Irish origin’ had occurred.

Deputy Carthy said that the response he received from the DAFM, seen by Agriland, confirms that the department is aware of one instance this year whereby sheepmeat imported from Britain was mislabelled as Irish.

Agriland understands that deputy Carthy now intends to engage with Bord Bia and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on the matter.

When contacted by Agriland , a spokesperson for Bord Bia stated:

“The instance referenced was found by the Official Controls under Regulation EU 2017/625, managed by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine. This is not the remit of Bord Bia and Bord Bia cannot comment on the findings of DAFM controls.”

The FSAI had this to say:

“The FSAI is not aware of this particular incident, so is not in a position to comment. Any mislabelling of a food product is not allowed under food law.”

ICSA ‘appalled’

ICSA sheep chair, Sean McNamara, said he is appalled but not surprised at this revelation.

“ICSA has been highlighting the vast quantities of lamb carcasses and live lambs that are being imported into Ireland on a regular basis, so it comes as no surprise that a confirmed mislabelling case has come to light.

“In August, Bord Bia confirmed to ICSA that 3,500t of sheepmeat – in carcass form – had been imported to Ireland up to that point in 2021.

“We also know that, in any given year, approximately half a million live lambs are imported into the Republic of Ireland for slaughter.

“Those are massive volumes, and ICSA has been asking the questions about the checks and balances in place to ensure traceability that the labelling regulations were being followed,” he said.

However, he added, they had not been reassured by any of the responses received.

Agriland has contacted the DAFM in relation to this and is awaiting a response.

“The responsibility for ensuring that correct labelling and traceability procedures are adhered to, lies with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” the ICSA sheep chair said.

“The ICSA is now demanding full openness from the DAFM about just what has gone on here, why this lamb was mislabelled, and what they propose to do about it.”

Sheepmeat imports must be robust and strong – IFA

Meanwhile the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has said that procedures around imports of sheepmeat must be robust and strong.

IFA sheep chair, Sean Dennehy said:

“We have insisted that the three agencies [DAFM, the FSAI and Bord Bia] audit all procedures around the importation, processing and labeling of this product to ensure the integrity of Irish lamb is protected and that no imported products carry our labels or our QA logo,” he said.

He added that factories have a key role to play in this too, and must support the production of early lamb on Irish farms for these markets, with price commitments that reflect the costs and labour associated with early lamb production.

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