The use of growth promoters is banned in the EU, and each member state must ensure that cattle are not being dosed with these drugs.

Back in the mid 1980’s the Department of Agriculture set up the Special Investigation Unit to provide specialist inspectors within the Department to investigate and deal with serious practices and problems relating to use of illegal substances (hormones, angel dust, etc) in animal production.

Apart from the risk to human health, the abuse of illegal growth promoters was posing a huge risk to the reputation of the Irish agri-food industry and needed to be addressed urgently.

The problem disappeared relatively quickly in the 1990’s following a series of convictions.

A person found guilty in the courts of using an illegal growth promoter is liable to:

  • On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or to both.
  • Conviction on indictment could result in a fine not exceeding €500,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or to both. (Indictable offences are those which must be tried on indictment before a judge and jury, that is, in the Circuit Court or the Central Criminal Court. However, not all indictable offences are tried before a jury.)
  • Cross compliance penalties also apply depending on the seriousness of the case which would see significant cuts to farmers EU payments.
  • EU legislation also provides for the imposition of the cost of the investigation on the farmer.

This week Department of Agriculture confirmed that it had launched an investigation after a sample taken from a beef animal tested positive for angel dust.

It confirmed that an animal, which was processed through Larry Goodman-owned ABP meat plant in Clones, Monaghan, tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol, otherwise known as angel dust.

The Department also confirmed that it has placed all animals on the farm under restriction pending the completion of the investigation.