Chicken meat used in the Irish catering industry is 90% sourced from outside the island of Ireland and the EU, according to safefood — the promotional body responsible for food safety and healthy eating.
"Consumers told us they associate country of origin with food safety and choose locally-produced chicken as they perceive it to be ‘safer’ than imported varieties.
"However this choice cannot be made by consumers eating chicken outside the home as there is still no requirement on caterers to label the source of their chicken," said Dr Aileen McGloin, the body’s scientific support manager .
"Labelling continues to be an ongoing issue that consumers tell us they are concerned about and a lack of information at point of purchase or the catering stage of the food chain further compounds this. It is hoped that new legislation from the EU due in 2015 requiring country of origin labelling on all poultry and meats will help with addressing this."
The growth in imports is attributed to increased demand and, in particular, the preference of consumers for white chicken. Much of the catering industry chicken in Ireland is imported as cooked meat from Thailand. While consumers give much time and effort to ensuring that they purchase Irish chicken from their retailer, no information is provided to them on the chicken they may eat in their sandwich or in a restaurant, nor any onus put on the caterer to provide information.
Eight out of ten Irish adults eat chicken every week. The safefood advice is that chicken products prepared for direct sale to consumers are ‘oven ready’ and do not need further washing, but unsafe consumer practices such as rinsing chicken under the tap persist.
n Alo Mohan, IFA national poultry chairman, said in general, retailers have rowed in behind the Irish poultry industry, and Bord Bia Irish quality-assured chicken predominates in supermarkets.
He said operators who sell imported meat as Irish undermine the efforts of Irish farmers who operate to the highest standards. "At food service level, in restaurants, hotels, petrol stations and serve-over counters, there is no transparency on the origin of the chicken served," he said.
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