ANOTHER week draws to a close – another week of bad news for Ireland's food processing sector and especially the €2bn beef industry.
Few people beyond those directly concerned will have noticed that yesterday marked the passing of a full calendar month since this controversy began. On the evening of January 15 last the Food Safety Authority of Ireland dropped the bombshell news that traces of pig and horse DNA had been found in Irish beef burgers.
The issue has reverberated across Europe and beyond since then. By now up to 16 countries are thought to be involved.
This is now an EU-wide issue which requires an EU response. It is wrong to take any comfort from the large number of other countries involved in this controversy.
Ireland's food industry is too important to us economically. Our image as a clean and largely green food producer is a precious and bankable commodity. It is based on the twin pillars of food quality and security.
It is also a basic truth that all citizens are entitled to fully trust the information they are given about the food they buy and eat. Food labelling is a deadly serious business.
Happily the week did end on an optimistic note with first signs of a tangible EU-led response to the problem. Last night news came from Brussels of a new agreement on a thorough testing system for beef products across all 27 EU member states.
That is a step in the right direction. It is to be hoped that the coming week will bring more reassurance to shoppers and some good news to the Irish beef sector.