AGRICULTURE Minister Sim-on Coveney has admitted that under the traceability system he cannot be sure that horses do not have false documents.
Mr Coveney remains under pressure as questions mount over the horse burger controversy. He is to meet with his European counterparts today to discuss the crisis.
"This is clearly a European- wide problem. It needs a European solution," he said.
Under a new system in place for the past four years, every horse is supposed to have a passport and a matching microchip. But Mr Coveney said he could not guarantee that the system can't be breached.
"Can I be 100pc sure that no horse has got, essentially, a false passport? I can't be 100pc sure of that," he said.
In the wake of the horse burger controversy, Mr Coveney said there have been a "small number of complaints" in the area of horse traceability.
Meanwhile former head of the DSPCA, Jimmy Cahill, said his organisation had been warning the Department of Agriculture about problems with the horse passport system since at least 2003 – but no action was taken.
"Back as far as 2008- 2009 it was becoming a serious problem for the DSPCA, the number of animals being abandoned or left in fields . . . nobody wanted to take any interest in it," he told RTE's 'Prime Time'.
However Martin Blake, chief veterinary officer with the department, denied that these concerns were ignored.
He said that, in general, the food system is safe.
However there are always "people operating at the margins" who will call the system into question.