Page last updated at 19:11 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Shops told to remove Irish pork

Supermarket staff clear shelves of pork
Butchers and supermarkets were told to remove NI pork products

Retailers should temporarily remove all pork products from Northern Ireland, the Stormont Health Minister has said.

Six premises in NI and 47 in the Irish Republic were supplied with the same feed being linked to the contamination.

Michael McGimpsey said NI pork products bought at the weekend should not be consumed at the moment but kept frozen until further notice.

He said the Food Standard's Agency advice was to recall and destroy pork products from the Republic of Ireland.

The minister said he expected the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) urgent warning about pork from Northern Ireland to be "merely temporary".

It appears that all the premises in Northern Ireland associated with contaminated feed have now been traced and put under restriction
Graham Furey
Ulster Farmers' Union

A spokesman for the FSA said there was no immediate risk to public health in Northern Ireland.

The pig feed being linked to the contamination is thought to have been feed tainted with oil from a County Carlow firm which recycles food in pig meal.

Millstream Power Recycling Limited said it was investigating how the firm's "strict health and safety procedures... could possibly have been breached".

Police in the Republic have been called in to investigate how pigs came to be contaminated with potentially harmful dioxins.

Restricted

Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said six affected herds in Northern Ireland had been restricted as soon as she heard about the potential contamination.

It was initially thought that nine farm premises were affected, but it has been a complex process to trace the contaminated feed as some is believed to have been delivered to wholesalers and distributed to other farms.

In Northern Ireland, 26,000 pigs are processed every week but major firms halted slaughtering on Monday and a backlog is building up on farms.

Officials from the FSA, Northern Ireland farming leaders and the Stormont Departments of Agriculture and Health have been meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss the crisis in the pig industry.


I would fully expect that the brand's local sources of pork will be cleared for use soon, however our customers' health is our first priority

Paul Rankin

The Ulster Farmers' Union said it was optimistic that Northern Ireland's pork and bacon industry could return to normal as early as Tuesday.

Speaking after a "very positive" meeting with the FSA, union spokesman Graham Furey said: "It appears that all the premises in Northern Ireland associated with contaminated feed have now been traced and put under restriction."

One victim of the pork alert is celebrity chef Paul Rankin, who has suspended production of his range of premium sausages.

"I would fully expect that the brand's local sources of pork will be cleared for use soon, however our customers' health is our first priority," he said.

At the largest pig processor in the Republic, County Offaly-based Rosderra Meats, 850 workers have been laid off and a further 650 put on protective notice.

pigs
The pigs are thought to have been contaminated by animal feed
The trade union Siptu has warned as many as 6,000 jobs are at risk in the Republic's pork industry, estimated to be worth 350m a year.

Twelve European Union countries and nine non-EU countries have been affected by the scare.

The risk is said to be low, but people are advised not to eat any Irish pork.

The UK's Food Standards Agency said: "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 Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said the situation regarding pork needed to be resolved quickly "before serious damage is done to consumer confidence".

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SEE ALSO
Backlog of pigs builds up at farms
08 Dec 08 |  Northern Ireland
Nine NI farms used tainted feed
07 Dec 08 |  Northern Ireland
Irish Republic recalls all pork
07 Dec 08 |  Europe
Dioxins
03 Jun 99 |  Medical notes

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