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Reilly debates issues of food safety in the Seanad

5 July, 2011

Speaking today in the Seanad on a debate on Food Safety, Sinn Fein Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“We all take for granted that the food that we eat is safe. We trust that the systems we have in place will detect disease and protect our society. Yet recent food scares from BSE, Pork Dioxins, and the recent EColi outbreak tells us that we must remain vigilant.

“An outbreak of EColi in the last two months has devastated Europe. So far, the strain has killed 51 people, including 49 deaths in Germany and one each in Sweden and the U.S.

“Safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board, has a statutory function to develop a strategy for the effective delivery of a specialised enteric laboratory service for the island of Ireland.

“But, currently most testing relating to food safety in Ireland, North and South is conducted by the Laboratory of Enteric Pathogens in Colindale in London. Should a major foodborne disease breakout across Britain and Ireland, Ireland will fall to the bottom of the list.

“An integrated enteric reference service for the island of Ireland would enhance public health protection by ensuring the rapid identification of the causes of foodborne disease, by facilitating trace back to the sources of infection and by allowing sharing of comprehensive data on these organisms.

“It would mean that should a food scare break out here, that we would not have the Cluedo theatrics as we have seen with the EColi scare in Europe as to the source of the scare.

“I am asking the Minister today, and his colleagues in the Departments of Health, North and South to facilitate the costing report for an island-wide enteric reference centre on the island. Safefood will fund the report from its budget.

“As I have said previously in this House, we should not have to wait for a food crisis before we consider these important issues.

“An enteric reference service provides definitive identification of the causes of enteric illness. It is essential for outbreak recognition and for the identification of emerging issues and threats in relation to foodborne illness.”

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