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Sinn Féin to discuss Beef Ban - Health related issues with Minister

8 February, 2005

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will lead a party delegation including Cllr Gerry McHugh, head of the Sinn Féin National Agriculture Department to meet with British direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith and Chief Medical Officer Dr Henreita Campbell, today, Tuesday 8th February at 3pm to discus health issues related to the lifting of the Beef Ban.

Speaking today Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Féin is determined to push ahead and challenge any obstacle to the lifting of the Beef Ban her in the north. To do this it is important to challenge the opposition that exists particularly within the British Health Department.

"It is vital that we have in place a robust testing regime that ensures that animals are tested quickly and that results are both reliable and processed quickly and that any contamination is removed immediately from the food chain. It is vital that testing can build public confidence and the development of markets for our beef products.

"The European Food Safety Authority are happy with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is equivalent to that associated with other European countries.

"The biggest difficulties come from widespread criticisms of the UK testing regime, particularly from the European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO). However their report gives the North a clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring regimes.

"We are meeting Angela Smith and Dr Henreita Campbell to ensure that they appreciate the confidence that exists already about the testing protocols. We will also be mapping out what Sinn Fein believe is the way ahead in terms on discussions between all of the key stakeholders, the department of health and DARD to ensure that can make early progress on lifting the beef ban.

"To meet any concerns about the sampling it is vital that the Six Counties has the required capacity in place to test animals over thirty months. Clearly handing over control of the testing to the Food Safety Authority should also be considered." ENDS

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