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Ministers Smith And Gildernew Discuss Irish Pigmeat Situation

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today met his Northern counterpart, Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA, to discuss the events of the past week, since a precautionary product recalls of Irish pork and bacon products were announced and the extensive Government response since.

Minister Smith outlined the decisive and speedy reaction, following the receipt of test results on Saturday, which involved a product recall in the interests of public safety and consumer confidence, the extensive discussions with the processing sector to rescue the industry and the measures taken to bolster important international markets, including the Minister's visit to Paris last night to support Bord Bia's international marketing efforts.

The Ministers welcomed the decision taken in Brussels yesterday to introduce an aid to private storage scheme which is worth a potential €15 million to the industry.

Minister Smith said that he was "pleased to have been in the position to reassure Minister Gildernew and consumers North and South of the safety and high-quality of Irish pork and bacon products." Both Ministers agreed that the prompt actions of the Irish authorities ensured that new product is already back on the shop shelves and said that they "looked forward to families on both parts of our island enjoying their traditional Irish Christmas hams."

Minister Michelle Gildernew said: "I have been in contact with Mr Smith throughout this process and our officials have been in on-going contact to deal with the problem. However, I felt it was important for us to meet face to face and to discuss the way ahead. We are hopeful that the problem has been contained and that work can now concentrate on re-establishing confidence in our products.

"I am confident that we have the finest pork and beef that is produced anywhere and we must work together to capitalise on this. Mr Smith and I agreed that our officials will continue to work together for the common good in relation to this problem and for the good of the industry as a whole."

The Ministers welcomed the expression of support from the European Council today "for Ireland's effort to deal with the situation relating to pigmeat and its prompt precautionary action."

The Ministers acknowledged that this was a preliminary review of recent events and agreed that when further information was available, a further review of the events of the past week would take place and they undertook to maintain close contact in relation to this and other issues of mutual interest.

Date Released: 12 December 2008