Page last updated at 22:06 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Wrong oil blamed for pork scare

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

A contaminated pig meat scare which prompted the recall of Irish pork products is being blamed on unlicensed oil used at an animal feed factory.

The type of oil used in a burner to recycle food products into animal feed was "inappropriate", said a senior Irish Agriculture Department inspector.

Meanwhile, the UK Food Standards Agency said it believed no pigs in Northern Ireland had consumed the tainted feed.

But it said pork labelled ROI or NI should still be thrown out or returned.

The agency said retailers and caterers should "temporarily remove products manufactured in Northern Ireland from sale until they can satisfy themselves that these products don't contain pork sourced from the Republic of Ireland after 1 September".

"Pork products will reappear on sale once retailers and caterers have carried out appropriate checks," it added.

If anyone's not clear about where the product comes from, our advice is to take that back to the point of purchase and get a refund
Dr Andrew Wadge
Food Standards Agency

The agency said 11 businesses in Northern Ireland had received pork from the Republic which was processed and placed on sale locally.

Butchers and supermarkets were earlier advised by Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to temporarily remove all pork products from Northern Ireland.

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

Low risk

The Food Standards Agency said adverse health effects were "only likely if people are exposed to relatively high levels of this contaminant for long periods".

Dr Andrew Wadge, director of food safety, said they were ensuring pork from affected farms was removed from shops.

"If anyone's not clear about where the product comes from - they've got it in their fridge or in their freezer - then our advice is to take that back to the point of purchase and get a refund," he said.

Although the risk is said to be low, people are advised not to eat any Irish pork and the health scare has had a devastating effect for the pork industry on both sides of the border.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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Shops told to remove Irish pork
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
03 Jun 99 |  Medical notes

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