Over half of Irish-branded pork and bacon products sold in Irish stores are made using imported pigmeat, “name and shame” DNA tests funded by the Irish Farmers Association have shown.
In 300 sample lab tests by DNA specialist IdentiGen, brands such as J Crowe & Sons, Thurles Bacon, Glensallagh (Lidl), Bradleys, and Templetuohy Farm Fresh Foods all contained imported meat. Only half of the Dunnes Stores St Bernard brand products tested contained Irish pigmeat.
The IFA said consumers cannot be expected to deal with the subtle difference of meanings between “misleading” labels such “Produce of Ireland” and “Produced in Ireland” — one meaning the goods were grown or reared here, the other referring to goods processed or packaged here.
IFA pigs and pigmeat chairman Pat O’Flaherty said: “The idea behind this pilot campaign is to help consumers make informed decisions and to increase sales of Irish product in domestic and export markets.
“Some companies and retailers are relying heavily on imagery and branding that would lead the consumer to believe they are buying Irish when the reality is they are being conned into believing a product is Irish when our DNA testing has proved this is not the case.”
The tests showed the meats tested had no genetic link to the Irish boar DNA database. The IFA says this is 100% proof of the meat’s imported status.
However, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland stated: “Pigmeat products do not have to display the country of origin on the label, unless the absence of this information could mislead consumers as to the true origin of the food. The FSAI will be glad to meet the IFA to discuss their findings.”
The IFA also criticised “Love Irish Food” for its brand being used on J Crowe & Sons goods, even though these were made with imported pigmeat.
Love Irish Food said it welcomed the DNA tests. It will discuss the matter with Crowe Meats, and will move swiftly to remove the brand from its membership if it finds the product is not of Irish origin.
Love Irish Food stated: “We are extremely disappointed that this particular product, out of over 300 individual member brand SKUs, does not appear to comply with our strict criteria; ie they must manufacture in the Republic of Ireland (a minimum of 80% of the brand must be made in RoI; and they must use ingredients where possible from RoI.”
Crowe Meats director PJ Crowe added: “This is just one product in our range. We were caught as unawares with this as anybody. We have dealt with the supplier and rectified the situation.
“We had specifically asked for Irish meat. We have to take suppliers at their word, so we have been only too happy to work with the IFA on this issue.”
Thurles Bacon owner John Watters was equally emphatic: “I get my bacon from a supplier in Cork, and it was supposed to be Irish.”
Legalities and labels
‘Country of origin’ labels are required for beef but not for pigmeat, poultry, or sheepmeat.
* Beef has to carry “country of origin” labelling. If the beef is derived from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in Ireland, it is simply marked “Origin: Ireland”. If the beef is derived from animals from different countries, the label must indicate country of birth, country (or countries) of fattening, and country of slaughter.
* Pigmeat does not have to carry “country of origin” labelling. In 2008, the European Commission rejected draft proposals from Ireland on country of origin labelling on pigmeat, poultry, and sheepmeat.
* While there is no legal definition in EU labelling legislation for “product” or “produced in”, the general use tends to be: “Produce of Ireland” means raised and slaughtered in Ireland, while “produced in Ireland” means the product was made here, but the raw ingredient was imported.
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