08 February 2013
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has commented on the investigations carried out by the Food Standards Agency into the authenticity of products available to the public via retail outlets.
Member of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Substitute member of the EU Fisheries Committee
Mrs Dodds highlighted the need for stakeholders within the Agri Food sector to rebuild consumer confidence in light of these developments.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds said “At a time when the agri food industry is actively looking to grow consumption at home and abroad for agriculture products, any news which has the potential to knock consumer confidence will have a negative impact on the supply chain. Unfortunately in this case I think farmers in Northern Ireland will foot some of the cost for these latest revelations, which is unfair given that they have played no part at all in these developments.
Consumer confidence has been knocked but a process of rebuilding must be put in place and the starting point for this should be pinpointing the reasons why horse DNA has been found in these products. As we move forward it is vital the Food Standards Agency, retailers and processors ensure the products on our shelves reflect the label. The retail and processing sector must be asked the reasons behind sourcing meat and processed foods from outside the UK. Consumers need clarity on whether this has been done knowingly to retain profit margins and how horse meat has been knowingly included in processed food products.
We must understand the reason why we are importing meat, horse or otherwise from across Europe and not sourcing raw material from our farmers who adhere to a raft of legislation and quality assurance schemes which are designed to protect the consumer. This situation has highlighted the intra-dependence of the industry, as farmers rely on processors to maintain high standards and vice versa. If something does come to light which knocks consumer confidence, everyone is affected as a result.
In relation to consumer confidence, it should publicised that the most recent revelations cause no risk to human health. However, they do raise questions about the labelling of product, as well as the authenticity of products imported for use in food products from other EU Member States. Consumers should have confidence in the controls which are in place to identify problems and to ascertain the causes.
As consumers here in Northern Ireland, I believe we should continue to support local produce. Northern Ireland has an extremely good track record in relation to maintaining high standards of food safety and the authenticity of its produce. It is important to keep these factors in mind moving forward and to support quality assured Northern Ireland produce.”