WE ARE well into the second week of this 'horse meat burger' controversy with only faint hopes of an end in sight.
The early plethora of slightly hysterical and decidedly juvenille horse burger gags has worn very thin indeed.
Now even those totally unconnected to Ireland's food and agribusiness sectors know the score: jobs and livelihoods are on the line here.
Food markets at home and, most especially abroad, are built on a reputation for quality and security. The good name of Irish beef as a green and clean product has taken several generations of sheer slog to build up.
Over the past 30 years, it has gone from being a commodity dumped into EU intervention to being a highly sought premium brand in French, German and Italian supermarkets.
Irish farmers put in long hours of hard work and their efforts are matched by those who work in the processing plants.
It has been a very difficult time for these people over the past 10 days as their livelihoods' future flashed before them.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, tipped for the top in Irish politics, appeared to start well when this matter first became public on January 15.
But almost a fortnight later, Mr Coveney cannot answer some very basic questions about a problem first detected by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland back in November.
Let's recall that this is not necessarily an issue of food safety like that which occurred with the discovery of dioxins in Irish pig meat back in December 2008. On that occasion the authorities moved swiftly and decisively.
It is fervently hoped that no such drastic action, like that required to save the pork and bacon sector four years ago, will be needed to safeguard Irish beef.
But no action can be taken without some more basic information being made available.
The beef sector is worth €2bn per year to the economy. Jobs and livelihoods are on the line – and with it Ireland's future economic prosperity.