Department deny EID move is linked to food safety audit

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Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The Department of Agriculture has denied that the controversial decision to introduce mandatory electronic tagging (EID) of all sheep from October 1 was prompted by the findings of a major Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) audit of its sheep identification and traceability controls.

However, a Department statement conceded that the introduction of EID would deliver a "more robust traceability system which is essential for the protection of public health".

The FSAI audit of the Department's sheep identification and traceability controls was undertaken in 2017 as a part of a planned programme of checks and its findings are due to be published shortly. An FSAI spokesperson said the Department of Agriculture is aware of the findings of the audit.

In response to queries from the Farming Independent the Department insisted that a number of factors influenced the decision to introduce EID.

"It is generally acknowledged that the current sheep identification system is overly complex and is heavily reliant on the manual completion of lengthy identification numbers on movement documents and reading and transcription of these numbers.

"The reliance on paper records causes problems with the recording and transcription of identification numbers," the Department maintained.

"The extension of EID will provide for a more robust traceability system which is essential for the protection of public health and animal health and confidence in our traceability system. EID will facilitate an effective system for tracing back of sheep if required for animal health or other requirements," the Department added.

The introduction of EID has provoked a furious reaction from the farm organisations, who have accused the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, of acting unilaterally and not consulting farmers.

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Farmers claim that EID will cost sheep producers up to €2m annually, is a waste of money for lambs going directly from the farm of birth to slaughter, and that the measure will not benefit product traceability because of the 'batch' traceability system which is employed by processors.

However, Minister Creed has argued that EID is used throughout the EU and is vital to the opening up of new markets in the US, China and Japan.

Meanwhile, an IFA submission to the Department of Agriculture on EID will outline why farmers cannot be expected to carry the €2m costs of EID tagging when the main ­beneficiaries from the initiative will be factories, the marts, the Department and the tag suppliers.

In addition, IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said the association's submission argues that the introduction EID in October will damage the store lamb trade.

The success of EID depends on factories and marts being in a position to effectively operate as Central Points of Recording (CPR) for sheep movements.

Mr Dennehy said the Department will have to guarantee the accuracy of the CPR printouts and accept them as animal movement documents which can be used for cross compliance.

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