A number of sheep carcases from Northern Ireland were mislabelled as “origin Ireland” at a factory in July, with the error detected before any product left the factory, the Irish Farmers Journal can reveal.
The factory in question was Kepak Athleague and during a routine inspection, Department of Agriculture staff detected the error.
The factory relabelled the product with the correct label and put controls in place to prevent the same issue occurring again. Kepak declined to comment on the issue when contacted by the Irish Farmers Journal.
Anecdotal reports earlier this year suggested that imported sheepmeat was being incorrectly labelled as Irish
Last week, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy revealed through Freedom of Information (FOI) that the Department was aware of one instance this year whereby imported sheepmeat from the UK was mislabelled as Irish.
He has called on the Department to release the full information regarding the case.
“Anecdotal reports earlier this year suggested that imported sheepmeat was being incorrectly labelled as Irish.
“Spring 2021 was notable for Irish sheep farmers as, while usually a time of respectable prices, prices actually slipped by as much as 40-60c/kg, at least partially in response to British imports.”
The IFA said it raised the issue in April following the separate importation of 23t of sheepmeat, which coincided with factories dropping the price of lamb
He added that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must clarify whether any sanction was applied to those involved and the measures employed to ensure that it never happens again.
IFA sheep chair Seán Dennehy said farmers have not been given assurances from the authorities that strong and robust procedures are in place around imports of sheepmeat.
The IFA said it raised the issue in April following the separate importation of 23t of sheepmeat, which coincided with factories dropping the price of lamb.
Dennehy said it is up to the Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety Authority and Bord Bia to assure farmers this product is not misrepresented as Irish sheepmeat.
In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal on the labelling issue, a Department spokesperson said that a compliance notice which was issued to the plant "with a finding of failure to state the true country of origin on a consignment of sheep imported from the UK".
"This finding related to one consignment of sheep which were processed in the plant on the inspection date. The plant were instructed by DAFM to relabel any impacted carcases and conduct an internal review to investigate and prevent reoccurrence.
"The plant confirmed that the mislabelling occurred due to administrative error in the lairaige intake process.
"The plant confirmed in their response that they have undergone a process redesign at intake to mitigate against a recurrence of the error which led to the mislabelling."