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Monday, December 8, 2008

Pork Disappears from European Markets

Hot News from Big-Mouth Broad Casting;

Pork crisis 'could be as bad as BSE'

Consumers have been warned not to eat pig products from Northern Ireland or the Republic

Published Date: 08 December 2008
ULSTER'S multi-million pound pork industry may be facing a crisis as devastating as BSE, it has been warned.

Consumers were told yesterday not to eat pig products from Northern Ireland or the Republic after contaminated animal feed was found on both sides of the border.

Nine farms here were found using feed containing the same cancer-causing poisons that sparked a recall of all pork processed in the Republic.

A group of products from some farms across the border were found to contain between 80 and 200 times the recommended safe levels of dioxins – chemicals that cause a variety of cancers.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised customers not to eat sausages, bacon, salami or ham labelled from the Republic or Northern Ireland.

Officials stressed it was a precautionary recommendation while it investigated whether any contaminated produce had entered the UK market.

But Assembly member Edwin Poots last night warned that officials needed to tie up the probe as quickly as possible to avoid the type of panic that decimated the beef market after the outbreak of BSE in 1996.

"If not handled correctly by the Food Standards Agency, this has the potential to inflict similar damage to the industry as the BSE crisis," the Stormont Agriculture Department Committee member warned.

"It took the British beef industry 10 years to recover from export bans imposed after the outbreak of BSE was reported, and panic among consumers also hurt the industry.

"We cannot allow this to happen again in this tough economic climate."

The DUP MLA added it was vital the FSA took both farmers' livelihoods and public safety into account when conducting their investigation.

"It is important that while appropriate action is taken to safeguard consumer health, that those same steps are taken with consideration of the future of the industry," he said.

Sean Sherlock, Irish Labour spokesman on Agriculture and Food, also said the scare could be "Ireland's BSE or foot-and-mouth" crisis.

He added: "This announcement amounts to a threat to the overall viability of our food industry, as great as, if not greater than, the outbreaks of BSE and of foot and mouth."

Supermarkets across England, Scotland and Wales have already recalled all pork products from Ulster and the Republic.

The toxins which prompted shelves to be cleared were discovered in slaughtered pigs in the Republic.

All pork products made since September 1 across the border have been recalled after levels of dioxins 200 times above the safety limit were discovered in the animals.

Contaminated feed was used at a total of 37 Irish farms, of which 29 were pork farms and eight were beef.

Figures show that between April and July, the UK imported 15,000 tons of pork and bacon from Ireland, out of a total of 230,000 tons of imports.

The pig industry is Ireland's fourth-largest agricultural business, with £374million worth of pork products sold every year.

And in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said it was a multi-million pound business that would hit hundreds of farmers.

It is feared an extended ban on exports could cripple industries on both sides of the border which are expecting their busiest time of year with the Christmas rush for hams.

Thousands of pigs will be slaughtered and destroyed on 10 pig farms mostly in Munster. Another 38 beef farms will also be restricted but the stock will not be destroyed.

An FSA spokesman said they were advising there was a minimal risk to customers.

"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," he added.

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew yesterday confirmed nine farms in Northern Ireland were involved.

She has also spoken to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to offer her advice and ensure he is fully informed of the information her department has received from counterparts in Dublin.

"There is obviously a large amount of north-south movement of these products in Ireland and we need to carefully consider the way ahead," she said.

The UFU demanded swift and decisive action to reassure consumers and help minimise any effect on the industry.

Union president Graham Furey said: "Hopefully this is a very containable situation. We now hope the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland will be able to give clear, fact-based, guidance to local consumers as quickly as possible.

"The situation needs to be dealt with vigorously and transparently so that consumers and the industry can return to normality in this busy pre-Christmas market."

And UFU spokesman Joe McDonald said he hoped it was nowhere near the next BSE or foot-and-mouth.

He added part of dealing with the problem was that there was no clear labelling of the country of origin on pork products.

"This makes it very hard for shoppers and retailers. It's something we have been calling for, for a long time."

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