December 8, 2008

Irish Pork Recalled

Consumers in 25 countries could be affected by Irish pig meat contaminated with toxic dioxins, Irish government officials said on Sunday.

"We believe it's in the order of 20-25 countries. It's certainly less than 30," Chief Veterinary Officer Paddy Rogan told reporters, speaking about how many countries could be affected, including France and the Netherlands.

The Irish government has recalled all domestic pork products from shops, restaurants, and food processing plants because of contamination with dioxin that can cause cancer and other health problems.

British officials have warned consumers not to eat any Irish pork products after tests revealed the contamination.

Dublin announced the recall on Saturday after investigators said 10 farms in Ireland and a 9 more farms in the British province of Northern Ireland had used a contaminated pig feed.

Preliminary evidence shows the problem probably started in September.

Britain's Food Standards Agency, a government body that protects public health and consumer interests, said it was investigating whether any contaminated pork products had been distributed in the UK.

"The Food Standards Agency is today advising consumers not to eat pork or pork products, such as sausages, bacon, salami and ham, which are labeled as being from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland," it said in a statement.

The British supermarket group Asda, owned by U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, said it was taking precautions by pulling all Irish pork products from its shelves.

The Irish government said laboratory tests of animal feed and pork fat samples confirmed the presence of dioxins, with toxins at 80-200 times the safe limits.

The Irish Exporters Association said the total exports of pig meat and related added value products such as pizzas, pies and sandwiches containing pork was about $950 million.

The Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors said the contaminated pig feed came from one supplier and the source had been contained, and experts said the risk to consumers was low.

"These compounds take a long time to accumulate in the body, so a relatively short period of exposure would have little impact on the total body burden," said Professor Alan Boobis, toxicologist at Imperial College London.

"One would have to be exposed to high levels for a long period of time before there would be a health risk."

The European Commission said Ireland had acted well and quickly in recalling all locally produced pork products.


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