What do we actually mean by the term ‘Irish food’?

COMMENT: It can be taken as a given that Irish consumers, quite rightly, want to eat ‘Irish food’. But for those of them that are media savvy, one would have to assume that they might be getting a little bit bamboozled with the plethora of different definitions now kicking around in this regard.

For example, last week saw the Irish Farmers Association announcing that up to 50 per cent of the pigmeat available in Irish shops  -and marketed in a way that would lead shoppers to assume these products were farmed in Ireland – were not home produced at all.

The farming organisation had been able to do this on the back of DNA testing a wide range of pork and bacon products, the results of which were back referenced to the genetic data bases on every boar either standing on-farm or in an AI centre in the Republic of Ireland. What a simple and effective concept.

Meanwhile the National Dairy Council has taken all of this a step further by categorising the liquid milk containers now featuring the organisation’s logo as being both farmed and processed in the Republic of Ireland. Fair enough, but if one engages anyone from the ‘Love Irish Food’ initiative in conversation, it will immediately emphasise the brand focus of its work and the fact that the likes of chocolate, tea, coffee and soft drinks companies employ literally thousands of Irish workers.

And then there is Bord Bia, which runs its own campaigns – designed to communicate the provenance of the food products coming under its scrutiny.  All of these groupings, in their own way, have a valid point to make. However, by each putting a different emphasis on the foods they are promoting, the poor and unfortunate Irish consumer is left in a total quandary.

It strikes me that all of these different organisations should get together, come up with a clear definition of what the term ‘Irish food’ really means – and stick to it. Back in the spring of this year, genetic finger printing techniques were used to identify the significant quantities of horsemeat masquerading within beef burgers. So why can’t we use science, in a similar way, to help us clearly define the term ‘Irish food’?

Take liquid milk as a case in point. I would strongly suggest that there is more known about the DNA of every bull used on Irish dairy farms than is the case with their pig counterparts.

All of this may or not be possible. However, Irish consumers are putting their hands in their pockets and buying the food in our shops. On that basis, they have a genuine right to know exactly what it is they are buying.

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