independent

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Sligo horse meat on the menu?

Garda raid in Sligo in probe into suspected horse meat fraud

Paul Deering

A number of farms including one in Sligo have been searched by the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in connection with suspected horsemeat fraud. Seven sites, including farms, houses and one commercial premises were searched in Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Westmeath and Kilkenny by Gardai, along with officials from the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The Department said it and the FSAI were supporting an on-going investigation being conducted by members of The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation into offences of deception in relation to alleged fraudulent practices regarding tampering of identification passports and microchips of horses presented for slaughter in this jurisdiction.

It's understood the searches relate to the possibility horses that were slaughtered and should have ended up destroyed, may have ended up in being processed for export abroad for human consumption. It's not thought that any of the horsemeat has ended up in the Irish food chain. However this is not expected to be confirmed until the investigation is complete.

The bulk of the horsemeat is destined to be eaten by customers in Belgium, France and Italy as boneless meat.

The Department said that no horse could be slaughtered unless there was a record of it on the central equine database. When a horse was presented for slaughter, the system was checked to ensure that the database records the animal as being eligible for the food chain. Where this is not the case or where the information on the database differs from the passport in that regard, the equine was excluded from the food chain and could not be slaughtered.

All horses presented at slaughter plants undergo ante-mortem examination by DAFM to ensure they are fit for slaughter. All equines are scanned for a microchip and the details compared against the data on the passport. If the microchip does not match the number recorded on the passport or if additional microchips are detected that are not recorded on the passport, the equine is excluded from the food chain. Passports are also examined by DAFM officials for evidence of tampering.

Post mortem examinations are also undertaken on all slaughtered equines. The removal of microchips from equine carcasses is supervised by DAFM personnel to ensure that only the microchip(s) recorded on the passport are present. If additional microchips are discovered, the animal is automatically excluded from the food chain.

In the event of detection of non-compliance, appropriate action is taken by DAFM. In relation to the slaughter of horses, if DAFM inspectorate has determined that horses are not eligible for the food chain, those animals are excluded from the food chain. This enforcement demonstrates the robustness of the official controls of the Department.

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