Irish farming body under fire over pork testing

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has been accused of attempting to push up the price of pork in the marketplace through a scheme of  testing of pork products in Irish butchers’ shops which opponents have branded as “flawed”.

 

The accusations came as the IFA released its latest round of pork DNACertified testing, showing that, out of 91 product samples, 26 (or 29%) were not Irish, 25 of which were bought in independent butchers’ shops.

The Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland (ACBI) CEO Jack Hickey said the IFA testing was unfairly targeting its members and believed the IFA was using this system to push up the price of pork.

Flawed approach

The system uses technology supplied by DNA traceability specialist IdentiGen, which is compared with the national boar database.

Hickey said that, although it was unclear whether any of his members were involved in the cases, the system was fundamentally flawed.

“We already have a case with a boar where the paperwork says ‘Bord Bía Irish’, but the IFA has found it to be foreign,” Hickey commented.

This is corroborated by Yvonne McConnon of McConnon Meats, whose business was found last year to be selling foreign meat labelled as Irish, under the IFA scheme. On further examination the meat was supplied by a Bord Bía quality-assured farmer from four of his boars that he had failed to register. McConnon Meats was immediately delisted from a major retailer, which McConnon said caused “huge upset and damage to our business, which up until now had an absolutely impeccable record”.  

McConnon has raised these concerns with the EU commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan and is due to travel to Brussels to discuss the matter further.

Hickey and McConnon reported that farmers using imported semen or not registering their boars under the Bord Bía quality assurance scheme was having an impact on butchers and processors who want to sell their products as Irish.

“The database held by IFA hasn’t proven to be robust. I have written to the IFA to come back with evidence but they failed to respond,” said Hickey. But he added: “The Identigen technology is credible, but it has been created for the IFA for their own purposes.”

However the IFA refuted these claims in a statement: “The DNA Certification Programme is robust and the results gathered from samples are published based on agreed protocols. The agreed interpretation and action to be taken on results is based on finding four to five matches out of five samples.

“IdentiGen is a leading provider of DNA-based traceability and verification programmes and the National DNA Certification Programme for Irish pigmeat utilises DNA TraceBack.

“The test referred to by McConnon Meats was not carried out under the agreed protocols.”

The IFA refused to comment on claims it was attempting to push up the price of pork stating: “Our position is simply that all meats in retail and butchers’ shops should be properly labelled, so consumers know what they are buying and they are not misled.”

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