Processors highlight disease risks from dirty sheep
Dirty sheep will continue to be turned away by slaughter plants, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has insisted.
MII said the clean livestock policy (CLP) continued to be a "critical food safety aspect" of the sheep business and was "important to the reputation of the entire Irish sheep sector".
However, MII declined to comment on claims of overcharging by some plants in relation to the clipping of sheep.
"Any charges applied in the sector are a commercial matter between the supplier and processors," MII stated.
Cormac Healy of MII said progress was being made on the issue of clean sheep but he maintained that the industry would not allow any slippage in standards.
"We need to acknowledge that most suppliers are making strenuous efforts to deliver cleaner lambs for slaughter," he said. "Nevertheless, at this stage of the year and for the season ahead, our members are obliged to continually implement the clean livestock policy.
"It is the case that some sheep will be refused acceptance for slaughter if the fleece condition is very poor.
"The numbers involved are limited, but refusal for slaughter has been and will continue to apply where necessary.
"Excessively dirty animals pose a significant risk to the hygienic dressing of carcases during the production process.
"Long, dirty or wet wool carries a very high risk of transferring harmful bacteria to the carcase.
"The sheep processing industry has invested and continues to invest significant resources in ensuring hygienic carcase dressing so that Irish sheepmeat products are of the highest standard possible for consumers at home and in our export markets.
"Sheep producers are food producers and therefore have shared responsibilities for food safety too. The message remains that every effort must be made to present clean, dry sheep for processing."
Both the ICSA and IFA have complained at what they described as a "severe interpretation" of CLP by the sheep factories.
They also questioned the variation in charges applied by the sheep plants for the clipping of dirty sheep.
In addition, farmers have complained of being charged for clipping both clean and dirty stock in loads delivered for slaughter.
The Department of Agriculture has insisted that adhering to the clean livestock policy is a basic requirement in order to comply with existing EU and National Food Safety regulations.
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