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Equine database plans speeded up

Plans to establish a new central equine database have been speeded up, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has revealed.

Simon Coveney TD said from Tuesday the database would contain information on more than 70% of cattle, sheep and pigs registered over the past 30-plus years.

The move comes in the wake of the horse meat scandal which threatened Ireland's multimillion-euro food production industry.

"Facilities are being put in place during this weekend to receive and record equine animal registration details received from Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs). The information on the central equine database will be used by my department's veterinary staff to supplement the current checks at slaughterhouses," the minister said.

The minister also stated that he would like to see the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Organisation.

The EU Commission has announced that it intends to submit proposals to the Agriculture Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to amend existing legislation to facilitate departments or other state agencies in taking over responsibility for issuing passports.

The agriculture department is awaiting these proposals. In the meantime, there will be no change in the status of the PIOs.

The minister said that he intends to work with passport organisations to introduce a new system.

"I have acted swiftly, as I promised to do in the immediate aftermath of the equine DNA issue, and will move to the final stage in the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Agency once EU legislation provides me with the overarching legal base to put this into effect," said the minister.

In January, an investigation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed that horse meat had been found in frozen beef burgers. Three processing plants, two in Ireland and one in the UK were implicated in the costly controversy which led to thousands of beef products being withdrawn from supermarket shelves.

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