Belfast Telegraph

Illegal meat fears after swoop on Armagh slaughterhouse

BY LINDA STEWART

A suspected illegal abattoir where animals have been slaughtered for food without official hygiene checks has been uncovered by a multi-agency investigation in south Armagh.

Police carried out searches of two properties in Forkhill and one in the Bessbrook area as part of a joint operation with the Department of Agriculture, and Newry and Mourne District Council, supported by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

A number of items were seized for examination, the PSNI said.

Director Maria Jennings added: "The FSA is working closely with the PSNI and all relevant authorities, including Dard and the district council on this investigation, in order to stop further production at this plant and to protect the safety of the food chain.

"We are currently investigating which businesses have been supplied with meat from the plant and we will provide further information once we have it."

A spokesperson from the Ulster Farmers' Union said: "This is extremely frustrating for farmers who work hard to meet EU animal health and welfare requirements and traceability standards. It puts the reputation of the whole industry at risk and we fully support the investigation."

DUP MLA for Newry and Armagh, William Irwin, said he had been aware of reports of illegal slaughter plants in the area for some time.

The health risk to the public of contaminated meat from illegal plants could be catastrophic, he said.

"There is a huge emphasis placed on traceability of meat products from the farm gate to the supermarket shelf," he added.

"This is for very good reasons, given the recent scares over horse meat."

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley, described the discovery of the illegal slaughter as extremely worrying.

"People want to be assured that the food they are eating is safe, and it is important that we are made aware as soon as possible just what is involved in today's operation in relation to food safety," he said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police in Newry on 0845 600 8000.

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