Beggs challenges Health Minister on risks to public health from illegal meat plant

Ulster Unionist Party Health spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA has called on the Health Minister to detail the potential risk to public health from illicit meat following the discovery of an illegal abattoir in Forkhill, South Armagh. Roy Beggs has secured an emergency question in the Assembly this afternoon.

The East Antrim MLA said;

“Those who have organised and distributed the meat in this criminal venture have put public health at very serious risk for personal profit.

“This afternoon I will ask the Health Minister directly just what impact this illegal meat could have on public safety. It is absolutely vital that the public know that the meat they are eating complies with minimum standards and most importantly is safe for human consumption.

“Last September the Ulster Unionist Party revealed that 9,000 cattle went missing or were stolen over the preceding 3 years. At the time we stated our suspicions that criminal gangs were stealing cattle every year with the intent to either illegally process the meat themselves or dispose of them across the border with fake documentation. This now appears to have been the case.

“In this instance it was not so much a case of the usual from farm to fork excellence which consumers here have come to expect but from farm to Forkhill.

“It is now vital that the Food Standards Authority and PSNI trace those who have been distributing this meat. Is there a money trail to follow? Have members of the public been endangered by this cheap meat or has the meat been used for pet food? Once these immediate issues have been addressed I will then be asking what lessons, if any, were learned from the horse meat scandal.

“Northern Ireland has some of the highest levels of traceability in the world enabling legitimate food to be followed from farm to fork.  This includes strict hygiene requirements at meat processing plants, the tracing of animal health records and the inspection of the meat carcasses by DARD’s Meat Inspection Team.   During the storage and transportation the temperature of meat must be regulated and recorded to protect the public health.

“Meat from ‘the back of a lorry’ could contain veterinary medications and the lack of hygiene and temperature controls would put the public at risk.  I would call on the public to assist the authorities in holding this organised crime gang to account.

“I strongly recommend that the public purchase food from only recognised local sources that they can trust.”

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