The Department of Agriculture could take over the inspection of small abattoirs from the local authorities this year, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

County councils currently undertake these inspections on behalf of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

However, according to Minister McConalogue, a decision will be made before this year is out on whether the Department takes over this role.

He was speaking in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Pauline Tully.

There are currently approximately 30 local authority veterinary inspectors carrying out food safety duties at 500 smaller abattoirs in Ireland.

Meanwhile, there are 60 Department vets carrying out inspections in all larger slaughter plants and other larger meat plants, processing plants and cold stores around the country.

The minister said that the possible synergies associated with his Department taking on the supervision of these smaller abattoirs would allow for a more “joined up approach” in the sector.