Food industry must win reputation back

The Irish food industry has received a number of body blows in recent weeks that it could do without in the present economic climate.

The Irish food industry has received a number of body blows in recent weeks that it could do without in the present economic climate.

The horse meat scandal is a huge negative for all involvled in the food sector.

Our international reputation as a high quality food producer is at risk. There will certainly be short term damage involving loss of orders and possibly job losses - the real danger is that the scandal will have far greater long term consequences.

Three instances of food contamination on the island have received worldwide headlines that will be long remembered.

The irony is that the horse meat doesn’t pose any health risk. In many countries it is an accepted part of the diet and there is no danger to consumers from eating any of the products.

The problem is that the products don’t do what it says on the tin - in three cases they were meant to be 100% beef.

In two of the cases there was a contamination with horse meat; in the third food delivered to English prisons was contaminated with pork which muslims are forbidden to eat.

With two of the companies located in the Republic it spells bad news for the industry; the other may be in Northern Ireland but foreign buyers may not make such a distinction in a small country.

Food safety is a high priority throughout the world following so many scares in recent years - the beef sector was particulrly vulnerable following ‘mad cow’ disease.

But producers got their house in order, precautuions were put in place and standards met new highs.

The Irish food industry was recognised as ‘green and clean’.

Now that’s at risk - to such an extent that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has called the gardai into the investigation.

The source of the contaminated supplies has not been found and that’s where the investigation must start.

We must hope that his inspectors get to the bottom of this - it’s an industry that must be above suspicion.