Irish beef contaminated but safe to eat

It has been confirmed that feed contaminated with dioxins was also fed to Irish cattle, but food standards agencies have assured that there is no associated risk to human health.

Ireland's Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has evaluated samples taken from affected herds in Ireland and says it is satisfied that the samples raise no public health concern. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is conducting its own tests on herds in Northern Ireland to establish the levels of chemicals present in meat.

As a precaution, stock and carcases from affected Irish and Northern Irish cattle herds are being held and will not be allowed to enter the food chain.

Dr Andrew Wadge, FSA chief scientist, said: "We would expect that the risk from dioxin in beef is significantly lower than in pork. Cattle consume a wider variety of feeds and the way their bodies process the feed is different, which makes the risk of contamination much lower. We're waiting for the results of the scientific tests to check for levels in Northern Ireland."

Ireland's chief veterinary officer Addy Rogan is expected to confirm that Irish beef remains 100% safe to eat during a meeting with chief vets from other EU member states in Brussels today.

The FSA has published a list of the meat processors in the Republic of Ireland affected by the pork incident, as well as meat companies in England, which have received pork products from these processors.

To date, five processing plants in the Republic of Ireland that have received the contaminated pork have been identified and 12 processing plants in Northern Ireland have been identified as potentially receiving contaminated pork from the Republic of Ireland.

No pigs in Northern Ireland were fed with the contaminated feed and pork processing has now resumed in Northern Ireland, with locally sourced pork products back on the shelves.

Despite media panic and consumer confusion over the contamination scare, the FSA has assured that "there is generally good traceability in the UK food supply chain" and that most major retailers and caterers have already traced their products and removed affected pork.

"We've asked retailers to work with us to agree a date this week when we will be able to say with certainty that consumers can now buy Irish pork unaffected by contaminated feed," said a spokesperson.

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