Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Beef and milk 'safe to consume'

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Stormont ministers hold news conference

It is safe to consume pork, beef and milk despite a scare over contaminated feed, Northern Ireland's health minister had said.

Irish pork was taken off the shelves and products from the Republic have been recalled. However, Northern Ireland pork production has resumed.

On Tuesday it emerged 53 cattle herds had consumed the contaminated feed.

Authorities on both sides of the border said there was no public health risk posed by consuming beef or milk.

Stormont health minister Michael McGimpsey said nine herds in Northern Ireland had consumed the feed.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said because of the differences in the digestive system of cows and pigs, the risk of contamination in beef was much lower than had been feared in relation to pork.

British beef

Mr McGimpsey said the FSA had no evidence to suggest consumers should stop eating beef and was also advising that it is safe to drink milk.

The Irish government said dioxin levels found in three herds which tested positive posed no health risk, and beef products would not be recalled.

Republic of Ireland Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said the levels of dioxins found in the beef were two to three times above safe limits, compared with 200 times for the pig meat which has devastated the pork sector.

Concerns about dioxins in cattle arose on the same day that processing of pigs resumed at Northern Ireland's biggest pork factory.

The FSA said it was confident no pigs in Northern Ireland had been fed contaminated feed.

Grampian Country Pork at Cookstown is working normally, and farmers have been told the company will clear the backlog of pigs on farms by Friday.

In the Republic, almost 1,400 pork processing workers have been laid off following the contamination scare.

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