Protest at Kerry Foods over labels
IFA calls for labelling loophole to be closed at Shillelagh protest
The IFA has called on food companies to clearly indicate the country of origin on meat product labelling during a protest at Kerry Foods in Shillelagh on Friday.
Farmers from across the country gathered at the south Wicklow meat processing plant to voice their concerns about a loophole in current legislation.
The furore arose last week when questions were asked about a Denny chicken product labelled as being 'Made in Wicklow' despite the fact that the chicken used, was imported from EU countries.
Speaking at the protest, IFA Poultry Chairman Andy Boylan called for the loophole to be closed.
'What the IFA is calling for is for clear and accurate information to be included on food labels, including the country of origin. I don't know any country that 'makes' a chicken. Poultry farmers rear chickens and the consumers have a right to know where the meat they are buying comes from. Looking at that label, one would immediately think it was Irish chicken contained within. Consumers do not have time to be dissecting labels in the supermarket. They are entitled to clear information from the outset,' said Mr Boylan.
He said the fact that Kerry Foods originally said that the chicken came from Brazil, but then that it came from other countries, only adds to the general confusion for consumers.
'This loophole in the current labelling legislation reinforces the importance of trusting the Bord Bia Quality Assurance label,' he added.
Mr Boylan called on Irish MEPs and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture to ensure that this issue is highlighted and addressed as a matter of urgency at EU legislative level.
He said Irish consumers feel misled by a brand that they have loyalty to.
'Poultry farmers have had their margins squeezed with all inputs increasing by 15-30 per cent in the past two years. They need an increase to cover their costs, and don't want to see an Irish food company, Kerry Foods, and their brand Denny, which is perceived as an Irish brand, using imported product. The Irish consumer values and trusts Irish poultry and all food processors should support locally-produced chicken. For Kerry Foods to import chicken from across the globe when the most efficiently produced chicken is produced on their doorstep here is a disgrace and needs to be rectified,' Mr Boylan said.
Chair of Wicklow IFA Chris Hill also attended the protest. He said that while Kerry Foods was in the spotlight at the moment, it is not the only company exploiting the legislative loophole.
'Everybody is talking about Kerry Foods this week but they are just one company which does not include the country of origin on their labels. It is up to them who they buy their chicken from, but the consumer should be informed,' he said.
'This action strips the value out of the Wicklow brand and there is no information on the packaging as to how it is produced,' he added.
IFA Grain Chairman Mark Browne said that this practice also impacts Irish grain producers and that by supporting foreign chicken producers, companies such as Kerry Foods are sending business out of country which could be supporting the Irish economy and jobs.
A spokesperson for Kerry Foods did not comment on Friday's protest but previously said that the Denny Foods sliced chicken packaging 'fully complies with the strict EU labelling regulations'.
Kerry Foods added that the 'Made in Wicklow' claim refers to the product being cooked, cooled, sliced, packaged and labelled in Co Wicklow.