Maintaining Ireland’s reputation for food safety excellence was central to yesterday’s One Island — One Health conference in Portmarnock Hotel, Co Dublin.
State veterinarians and agri-food industry leaders from north and south confirmed that the all-island approach has successfully underpinned shared disease control regulations.
British-based veterinarian Sam Mansley said that Ireland and Britain have learned valuable lessons from recent epidemics such as foot and mouth about the need for a cross-border approach to disease control.
Mr Mansley cited the successful measures used to prevent the illegal import of bone-in pork from Asian countries, and other successful air-borne disease control strategies.
James Casey of the Veterinary Officer’s Association said: “Recent threats to our human and animal health from dioxins, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza and BSE, illustrate that we must be ever vigilant to such risks. Ireland has an enviable record in being amongst the safest countries in the world for food production.
“Most threats, like foot and mouth, arrive without warning and contingency planning plays a big role... Other diseases, like TB and BVD, require planned eradication programmes over longer periods.”
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said that as the Irish food and drink industry seeks to expand exports by more than 40% in this decade, Ireland’s reputation as a source of safe, sustainable, and high quality food, among the 170 countries to which it exports, will be fundamental to its success.
Northern Irish Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said that the All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy, which was agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council this month, provides a basis to protect and enhance our animal health and welfare standards and to expand the export opportunities.
She said: “I believe that high standards of animal health and welfare can bring clear benefits in supporting industry profitability.”
This view was echoed by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who said the high standards of animal health and welfare on the Island are the bedrock of the agri-food industry: “Animal disease does not respect borders and, as an island, we must be ready to act quickly and decisively and be prepared for all contingencies. The importance of co-operation between north and south to ensure good public health and good animal health on the island of Ireland is clearly evident.”
The conference also featured expert speakers on disease control from a range countries. It also offered inputs from customs and excise officials, high level disease researchers and specialist inspectors.
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