Dioxins found in Irish pork

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised consumers not to eat pork or pork products which are labelled as being from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland, as they may be contaminated with dioxins.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised consumers not to eat pork or pork products, such as sausages, bacon, salami and ham, which are labelled as being from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland, while it continues to investigate whether any products contaminated with dioxins have 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," it said in a press statement.

This precautionary advice had been issued following the Irish government's announcement that it is recalling all pork products made in the Irish Republic since September after dioxins were found in slaughtered pigs that are thought to have eaten contaminated feed.

Dioxins are chemicals that get into food from the environment and they are associated with a range of health effects when there is long-term exposure to them at relatively high levels.

The source is thought to have been feed tainted with oil from a Co Carlow firm, which recycles food into pig meal. Millstream Power Recycling said it was investigating how the firm's "strict health and safety procedures... could possibly have been breached".

The Irish Republic's chief vet believes contaminated pork products may have been exported to up to 25 countries.

The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) 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The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets across England, Scotland and Wales had withdrawn from sale "the very small proportion" of Irish pork they had in stock, following advice from the FSA.

Suspicions of possible contamination were first raised last Monday, as a result of the routine testing of pigs, which indicated the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - banned in the Irish Republic since the 1970s - in animal feed.

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

The chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Alan Reilly said investigations were ongoing into how the contamination got into the feed.

Reilly added that culling of animals was likely in order to remove them from the food chain.

He said: "It's more than likely, from the types of dioxins that we have, that it is some kind of industrial oil or industrial contaminant and we're trying to find out where that came from."

A spokesman for Millstream Power Recycling said the oil which officials were testing had never been added as an ingredient, but was used in a machine to dry animal feed.

He added: "The management and staff at this company have always prided themselves on exceeding the strict standards of quality and safety in all aspects of its production. Millstream will be carrying out a full investigation to establish how the company's strict health and safety procedures and the high quality standards could possibly have been breached.

"In the meantime, Millstream will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture and Food to ensure that any product sold to the pig industry in recent weeks is identified and recalled."

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

Bacon, ham, sausages, white pudding and pizzas with ham toppings are included in the recall.

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