SOUTH Down Margaret Ritchie, who sits on the Westminster Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, has endorsed the committee’s report into the government’s handling of the horse meat scandal. Ms Ritchie said: “As is made clear in our report the UK government have been flatfooted in their response to the scandal. They were slow to act from the point when the Food Standards Authority Ireland released their initial results and they have been one step behind each development in this on-going scandal. It is unacceptable that people are still uncertain that the food they are eating is what is stated on the label and there remain questions over the threat to public health.
“It is obvious that we must introduce a robust testing regime backed by the FSA being granted statutory regulatory powers to compel producers to carry out such tests, as was recommended by the committee. This is needed to restore people’s faith in the food they are buying and giving to their family. In the short term it is clear that the FSA must ensure that supermarkets carry out wide-ranging tests on the most at-risk products to ensure that there is absolutely no risk to public health from bute or further contamination.
“Further to the committee report I have tabled parliamentary questions to ascertain what role the ban on desinewed meat played in encouraging cheap supplies of processed meat into the marketplace and to ask for confirmation that there is not a threat of a contamination from sources other than horse.
“The agri-food industry is one of the most important sectors in our economy and their produce in Northern Ireland is of the highest quality. The government must act to restore public faith in the food they are eating and in doing so supporting our local producers, especially if it is the case that they have been victims of criminal activity.”