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Ferris calls for stringent food labelling

23 October, 2007

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has called for a much stricter system of food labelling to be introduced to protect the interests of Irish farmers and consumers. The Kerry North TD was speaking in the Dáil this evening in support of a Private Members Motion on the issue. He specifically highlighted the need for 'country of origin' labelling to safeguard against substandard imports that consumers may be under the impression is produced in Ireland.

Deputy Ferris said, "The labelling of food is an extremely important issue and one that I have raised on numerous occasions. It is something that unites everyone from food producers to retailers and consumers.

"All the farm organisations have highlighted the fact that food is being sold in this country without any indication that it is not domestically produced. Processors do this because they can import meat and then process it without having to state where the animals originated. That means that consumers are buying meat products possibly in the belief that they originate here.

"The processors gain in that they pay lower prices for the imported products, especially when it comes from outside the EU, and it also provides them with added leverage in further constricting the price paid to Irish producers.

"A system needs to be introduced that will identify all produce according to the country from which it comes, rather than the country in which it was processed. That is the only way to ensure that the consumer has all the information necessary to making a purchase based on whether the product is Irish or not.

"There are wider issues of course than the economic threat which imports pose to domestic producers. As the IFA research into the Brazilian beef industry proved, the Brazilian sector is simply not subject to the kind of safeguards and regulations that govern beef production in the EU.

"That means that growth enhancers banned here can be used and that measures related to animal welfare and consumer safety can be flouted. While strict mechanisms of detection and control of disease such as Foot and Mouth are in place within most EU states, that is not the case in Brazil and there are no guarantees with regard to the quality of the beef that is imported. In 2005 there were confirmed outbreaks of FMD but imports continued.

"There is also the issue of the manner in which the cattle ranchers in Brazil have waged what amounts to a small scale war against those whose land they encroach upon. In February 2005 an American nun Dorothy Stang became one of over 1200 people murdered as part of their land grabbing. There have also been reports that thousands of people are forced to work as virtual slaves on the ranches. That is an unacceptable price to pay for cheap meat.

"As a Welsh farm leader pointed out, if an EU farmer as much as destroyed a hedge row in order to make room for cattle he would be heavily fined and possibly jailed. Never mind any of the other activities associated with the Brazilian industry." ENDS

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