Comment: Traceability goes out the window, but who cares?
Exam season is with us and just in case those of us not sitting exams have forgotten what it’s like, can I suggest you attempt to answer the following hypothetical question!
Q: When the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney was told some months ago that a Glanbia director had, allegedly, been involved in attributing milk produced on his farm to that of Clongowes School, what was his reaction? Discuss you answer.
a) Heck, the Russian and Chinese vets are about to come calling;
b) Sugar, my brother is about be appointed to the Board of Glanbia; or
c) Get me the number for Agriland.ie – we need to be upfront and open about this and explain how good our food traceability systems are.
In truth, the most infuriating dimension to the entire Clongowes’ debacle is the fact that both the Minister’s Department and Glanbia seem to have acted as if they had something to hide. When asked by Agriland if they would go public with the name of the farmer, who may have initially attributed the milk to Clongowes, Glanbia refused – pointing out that they did not comment on matters of this nature.
Then we had last week’s statement from the Minister telling us that all quota related issues pertaining to the Clongowes’ issue had been addressed and that a file on the matter had been sent to the Office of the State Solicitor.
All of this is very good, except that everyone seems to be ignoring the core points at issue – the undeclared milk ownership transfer may well have broken every health and safety rule in the book.
And this, in turn, brings into sharp focus food traceability issues. To date, Glanbia has refused to comment on this matter.
Today has seen the publication of the Cooke Report into the GSOC bugging issue: it took the retired judge a few short weeks to get this vitally important piece of work completed. Prior to this we had the Guerin Repot into the Garda Whistle Blower allegations. Again, this took a few short weeks to complete.
Meanwhile, it has taken months for the Department of Agriculture and Glanbia to get to the bottom of the Clongowes’ debacle. This is intolerable. Not alone does it cast a shadow on how just how transparent our systems are when it comes to dealing with any ‘variant’ issue that has a bearing on farming and food in Ireland, it also calls into question whether our traceability systems in dairying stand up. After all, this issue only came to light because of a whistleblower – not because Glanbia’s traceability systems worked.