The law must be changed to make food retailers and manufacturers register with authorities and guarantee food safety, according to Veterinary Ireland, an organisation representing over 2,000 vets.

A food safety document prepared by the group, Food Safety the Stable-to-Table Approach, argues that while Ireland already has high standards of food safety, there is room for improvement. All food products must carry batch numbers to enable traceability; food handlers must receive training in food safety regulations and statutory registration and certification could ensure that safety precautions are always implemented.

Paschal Gibbons, president of the group, commented: “Both the Irish Government and the EU have introduced various measures to protect food safety over the past 30 years … but a regulated and integrated national policy supported by legislation is needed if consumer health is to be protected throughout the entire food chain.”

Gibbons added that money should be spent on the prevention of animals health crises, so that situations such as the foot and mouth epidemic, which has already cost hundred of millions to address, do not occur.

The vets have also stressed the need to boost regulations across the food chain, from the feeding and breeding of animals to transportation, processing and retailing of finished products.