Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Sunday, 7 December 2008

Nine NI farms used tainted feed

Consumers are being advised not to eat Irish pork
Consumers have been advised to avoid Irish pork

Nine Northern Ireland farms have used the same contaminated feed which has led to a recall of all pig products processed in the Republic.

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said restrictions had been placed on the farms on Friday.

The UK's Food Standards Agency has said pork from the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland should not be eaten.

Supermarkets in Northern Ireland have been removing pork sourced from across Ireland from their shelves.

In Great Britain, Waitrose said it had withdrawn two lines of sausages sold under Northern Irish celebrity chef Paul Rankin's brand as a precaution.

Consumers in the UK have not been told to destroy the products, but to wait for the results of further investigation.

The recall started after dioxins were found in slaughtered Irish pigs, thought to have eaten contaminated feed.

Ms Gildernew said restrictions were put in place on Friday night when the situation began to unfold. She said the nine Northern Ireland farms were identified on her department's electronic monitoring system.

Gerry McCurdy said consumers should avoid Irish pork

"My officials have been in close contact with their counterparts in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) since this situation developed," she said.

"There is obviously a large amount of north south movement of these products in Ireland and we need to carefully consider the way ahead."

She added that Northern Ireland's Health Minisiter Michael McGimpsey was being kept informed of developments.

The recall could have a serious impact on the Northern Ireland pig industry.

BBC Northern Ireland consumer affairs correspondent Martin Cassidy said it was unclear if pig processors would be working as normal on Monday.

"Farmers too are concerned," he said.

"The contamination issue couldn't have come at a worse time in the run-up the lucrative Christmas gammon market."

Following a meeting in Belfast the FSA said it would continue to investigate if any contaminated products had been distributed in the UK.

"From the information that we have at this time, we do not believe there is significant risk to UK consumers as adverse health effects from eating the affected products are only likely if people are exposed to relatively high levels of this contaminant for long periods," the FSA said.

Tests on the slaughtered Irish pigs showed some pork products contained up to 200 times more dioxins than the recognised safety limit.

Exports

The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, said the problem was confined to 47 farms in his jurisdiction, including 38 beef farms.

The FSAI said their initial assessment was that there was no risk to beef products, but the farms affected have been isolated and further investigations are ongoing to confirm that.

The Food Safety Authority Ireland's chief executive Alan Reilly said: "The levels in the feed were very high. The levels in the pork itself were in the region of about 80-200 times above the safe limits."

The Irish authorities have said contaminated pig meat could have been exported to as many as 25 countries.

Padraig Walshe, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, described the recall as "an absolute disaster" at an important time of the year for the pig sector.

About 7,000 people are employed in the Republic of Ireland's pig industry, including about 1,200 on farms.

Almost 500 farmers produce 3.6 million pigs annually, according to the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Agency.

The industry exports approximately 60% of its production and is worth more than 250m euros (216m) a year.

Pizza

The British Pig Executive said that between April-July this year, the UK imported 230,000 tonnes of pork and bacon, with up to 15,000 of those from the Republic of Ireland.

Bacon, ham, sausages, white pudding and pizzas with ham toppings must be included in the withdrawal of stocks, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said.

Dioxins are formed during combustion processes, such as waste incineration, and during some industrial processes.

The presence of the dioxin polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - a substance banned in the Irish Republic since the 1970s - in animal feed and pork samples was confirmed on Saturday afternoon in test results from a UK laboratory.

Chronic long-term exposure to the dioxin can have serious health effects, including causing cancers, but Irish officials said the recall would ensure consumers only had minimum exposure to it.

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SEE ALSO
Irish Republic recalls all pork
07 Dec 08 |  Europe
Food body to meet on pork recall
07 Dec 08 |  Northern Ireland
Soil dioxin levels 'in decline'
07 Jun 07 |  Science & Environment

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