I’m sure you have all seen the news feeds flooded with the recent story of 66 people being arrested in Spain in connection with the infamous horse meat scandal of 2013.
The scandal of course originated in Ireland, with meats tested found to be positive for equine DNA.
We take a look into the current state of the Irish Meat Industry, and look to see just how things have changed for the better or worse since the scandal.
In total, there were 16 countries connected to the scandal, with a few Irish companies finding themselves in hot water. Companies all through Europe were affected, from Meat companies to Frozen food companies and even fast food companies.
Contrary to what one might believe, since the news of the scandal broke Ireland has become less reliant on other markets and experienced significant growth.
In 2014, the year after the scandal hit the news, Meat supply in the country increased by a huge 8% up to 1,289,000 tonnes in total. This represented an increase of 95,000 tonnes from 2013.
This again increased in 2015, up another 1.5% to 1,309,300.
Though one might think the industry would have take a hit, but in fact it remained quite the opposite, with Irelands Reputation for high standards remaining in tact.
This even though companies such as B&F Meats were suspended from trading for three months.
If anything, the scandal brought more good news than bad.
The controversy has led to the introduction of new, stricter regulations with regards meat packaging.
On March 15th of this year new rules were introduced by MEP’s to help tighten up official inspections carried out throughout the food chain. These were introduced to help improve food traceability, restore customers trust and to try and combat food fraud.
A comprehensive and effective control system has been implemented, which controls everything from food, pesticides, plant health, animal health and welfare, organic production, feed and protected geographical indications.
It is hoped these new rules will enable countries/authorities to respond more rapidly in case of another food crisis in the future.
Since the scandal, Food crime has been high up on the list of risks facing Agri-food companies. Since 2013, a huge effort has been made by these companies to monitor this risk more closely.
To prevent the recurrence of this in Ireland, it is now standard that all meat must be laboratory certified. An action which ensures the traceability of all meats supplied in Ireland.
Labelling of beef was also made a mandatory step for meat suppliers in Ireland in 2013, again helping consumers to trace products. This was done after an origin food labelling report was carried out.
In fact, since the whole news broke, Irelands has become increasingly more self sufficient in meat supplying.
This increased from 260% in 2013 up to 276% in 2014. This remained unchanged in 2015.
Ireland also became more sufficient in beef and veal, increasing to 698% in 2015, though this did drop to 678% in 2015.
Exports also increased with almost 70% of all meat supply been exported through Europe. This increased by 30.7% in 2015.
Livestock slaughtering’s were also up by 9.4% in the year following, 2014, up to 1,019,000. This increased by a further 0.8% in 2015.
And one might think this would mean decreased imports, though this was again not the case with increases of 2.9% in 2014 according to figures from the Central Statistics office.
Such is the influence of the new regulations, it has led to more recent discoveries made on the Food crime front.
ABP in Clones, as you might remember, were investigated after reports of “angel dust” found contaminating some of their products back in 2016.
The safety of the consumer has become a priority, highlighted by these new regulations.
Though some businesses experienced a small financial hit at the time, overall growth was experienced in the Agri-food sector.
There was, since then, an overall shift from frozen to fresh products amongst consumers, and customers began eager to pay a bit more for a product they could trust.
In total, there were 66 people arrested in recent days in connection to the scandal, none of which Irish.
It may have been a huge worry at the time but if anything, Ireland has benefitted greatly and improved the industry significantly as a result.
Systems in place have improved, and consumers can again trust their meat suppliers, as Ireland’s reputation for High quality meats remains untarnished.
Written by Catherina Cunnane and Kevin Forde.