'Salmonella controversy won't damage reputation of Irish dairy abroad'- Creed

Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Claire Fox & Margaret Donnelly

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said he is hopeful that no damage will be done to the reputation of the Irish dairy industry as a result of the recent closure of the milk powder section of Tipperary Co-op due to Salmonella.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed to FarmIreland that it was notified of a positive result of Salmonella in a powdered milk products sample at Tipperary Co-op.

Salmonella shut down the milk production unit at the dairy in September but has not affected the milk, butter and cheese production at the plant.

This development came as a major trade mission focused on increasing dairy exports is taking place in Indonesia and Malaysia this week.

Speaking to FarmIreland in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta Minister Creed said that he is confident his department “did everything right” and is hopeful that there will be no negative impact on demand for Irish dairy products abroad as a result of the contamination.

“We take these issues very seriously. Under EU law on food production there’s an obligation for food businesses and on the Department of Agriculture to carry out occasional spot checks and routine checks on finished products, ingredients etc. Salmonella isn’t an issue to be trivialised,” he said.

“When it was brought to our attention we took all of the appropriate and necessary steps. I’m confident in that context we have done everything right and contacted all the appropriate authorities’ including the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)and notified the EU.

“I think our reputation is enhanced by virtue of the fact when issues like this happen there is absolutely no question that we deal with them in an open and transparent way and that builds public confidence in our food systems, so I would hope that there would be no market consequences.”

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It is understood that about 100 tonnes of the milk powder was affected and that the co-op notified the Department of Agriculture and the FSAI in late September when the incident took place.

The Department confirmed that it is “is working closely with the FSAI and the Food Business Operator to ensure that all appropriate action is being taken to safeguard consumers and to ensure the on-going integrity of the Irish dairy food chain”.

President of ICMSA Pat McCormack expressed “complete confidence” in the procedures and responses of Tipperary Co-op to the detection of a pathogenic bacterium in a batch of powder product at the Co-op’s plant in Tipperary town.

McCormack, who farms at Greenane and is himself a supplier to the Co-op, said the most stringent standards operated throughout the manufacturing process had ‘picked up’ the contamination and thereafter an exact procedure had been followed aimed at alerting all relevant authorities and isolating completely any possible contaminated product.

Mr McCormack said he was very familiar with the Co-op’s operation and he was in no doubt whatsoever that the matter would be dealt with speedily and with adherence to the most exacting standards of safety and traceability.     

Irish dairy exports were worth €4 billion in 2017 and Ireland is the world’s third largest exporter of butter and supplies 10pc of the global market for infant formula.

Over the next two days, members of the Indonesian and Malaysian food industry will meet with Irish dairy exporters in an effort to generate new business opportunities.

Online Editors

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