The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is calling for changes to the labelling laws for pigmeat.

The organisation commissioned DNA testing company Identigen to test 300 pigmeat samples and compare the results against a complete DNA database of Irish boars, a world’s first it claims.

The results, published today, show 52 per cent of the rashers tested from the samples were not from Irish pigs.

While the IFA said no illegal activity has taken place and retailers can rightly label non-Irish products as being ‘Produced in Ireland’ if they have processed it further, it says customers have a right to know if what they think is Irish actually is.

Speaking at a press briefing this morning IFA pigs and pigmeat chairman Pat O’Flaherty said: “The idea behind this pilot campaign is to help consumers make informed decisions when buying pigmeat products and to increase the sales of Irish product in the domestic and export markets.”

The Rathangan man said the results from the ongoing DNA-testing programme were very disappointing, with some companies and retailers showing high levels of their product not matching the Irish DNA database.

He said: “It is unacceptable that companies and retailers are using imported pigmeat in their products. In addition, some companies and retailers are relying heavily on imagery and branding that would lead the consumer to believe they are buying Irish when the reality is they are being conned into believing a product is Irish when our DNA testing has proved this is not the case.”

In one case, the IFA claimed it uncovered that the pigment product did not display a plant number. Speaking to AgriLand, the owner of the plant in question said: “We are a small little family business. As far I was aware I was buying Irish bacon. I am checking up with the supplier at the moment. I’m not happy. Our last label did not have a factory number. That is completely my fault. I forgot about the factory label.

“We have a new label now and everything is on it. As far as I know I was selling Irish bacon and I’m looking into it.”

Also on the firing line was multinational retailer Dunnes Stores, who rated poorly in the IFA test results, with only half of its samples matching the Irish database. Dunnes Stores was unavailable for comment and, according to the IFA, it has has not engaged at all with the findings.

“In the run up to Christmas a lot of consumers are going to make decisions on where to buy there bacon and people want to use Irish and feed their families Irish. This type of labelling misleads consumers and points them in the wrong direction. Pretending it is something it is not,” concluded the IFA pigs and pigmeat chairman.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has insisted the Irish legislation is very clear.

“Pigmeat products do not have to display the country of origin on the label, unless the absence of this information could mislead consumers as to the true origin of the food,” she said.

The Department of Agriculture declined to comment.

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