Information on Irish pork recall

Monday 08 December 2008 13.27
Total Recall - A comprehensive guide to the Irish pork recall
Total Recall - A comprehensive guide to the Irish pork recall

Saturday's total recall of Irish pork products due to possible PCB contamination has rattled the already-shaky economy and worried consumers around the world.

The recall covers pork exported to places like the UK, continental Europe, Japan, South Africa and the US.

Stay connected to RTÉ.ie/News, RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ Television for the latest developments.

MORNING IRELAND SPECIAL

Listen to the Morning Ireland special programme including interviews with:

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith

IFA president Padraig Walshe

Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

and Alan Reilly from the Food Safety Authority

USEFUL INFORMATION

FSA helpline: 1890 33 66 77

FSA website

Irish Farmers Association

IBEC's pork section

Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors

Vegetarian Society of Ireland

Statement from Retail Ireland

'Retail Ireland, the IBEC group that represents the Irish retail sector has confirmed the withdrawal of pork products.

'Torlach Denihan, Director of Retail Ireland said: 'The members of Retail Ireland have withdrawn all Irish pork products produced from pigs slaughtered in the State and are fully compliant with the pigmeat recall notice issued by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

'Retail Ireland met the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today to discuss the consequences of the pigmeat recall and will engage in ongoing dialogue with the Minister and the FSAI on the matter.

'Retail Ireland is working with the Minister and the FSAI to make good Irish pork product available to consumers as soon as possible.'

National Consumer Agency Statement

The National Consumer Agency has confirmed that consumers are entitled to be refunded on pork meat and products containing pork purchased from retailers after 1 September.

'Under legislation consumers are entitled to repair, replacement or refund of a faulty product,' Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald said.

'In the case of pork meat or other food products containing pork, consumers are entitled to a refund - as a repair or replacement does not apply in this instance.'

The Agency says consumers and retailers have to be reasonable when it comes to refunds.

Ann Fitzgerald said retailers should accept the return of own-brand products without receipts, but that they could not be expected to pay out for a general brand without proof of purchase.

Consumer refunds

Musgraves and its retail partners SuperValu, Centra, Daybreak and DayToday have removed all pig meat products listed on the FSAI website from their stores.

Musgraves says it will continue to monitor the situation closely in liaison with the Department and the Food Authority.

The retailer partners will provide refunds for all affected products in line with their usual returns policy.

Tesco has said customers can get a full refund for Tesco pork products with or without receipt.

For branded pork products customers will need a receipt to get a refund.

However, the policy on branded pork products is being reviewed by Tesco on an on-going basis.

Green Isle Foods Limited says that Irish pork has been used in its Goodfella's Friday Fever Meateor product line and has withdrawn this product from sale as a precautionary measure.

Goodfella's Friday Fever Meateor is the only product impacted of over 60 products in the Goodfella's range.

The product is: Goodfella's Friday Fever Meateor. Best before end Aug 2009, codes 8309 & 8330 only.

Consumers who have purchased this product are asked to return the product packaging in accordance with the address details given on the pack and a full refund will be given.

No other Goodfella's products are affected.

Superquinn will refund all customers for receipted pork and bacon products returned to their stores.

FAQs

The Food Safety Authority website has provided the following answers to your frequently asked questions:

Why have Irish pork and bacon products been recalled from the market?

Irish produced pigmeat has recently tested positive for the presence of dioxins. As all Irish pigs are slaughtered and processed at the same processing plants, it is impossible to differentiate between products that have tested positive and those that have not. In the interest of consumer safety, all pork and pork products have therefore been recalled.

How does food become contaminated with dioxins?

Dioxin contamination of food can occur from two sources. The main source is feed that contains contaminated components. The second source is contamination that comes from the environment where animals may be kept.

How has Irish pork and bacon become contaminated with dioxins?

Animal feed, from one source, which recently tested positive for dioxins, was distributed to a number of pig farms and fed to the pigs.

What are dioxins?

Dioxins are persistent chemical contaminants in the environment. Although there are natural sources of dioxins such as forest fires, dioxins are usually formed as by-products of certain industrial combustion and chemical processes.

For more on this, read the FSA's information sheet on dioxins

What are ‘persistent' chemicals?

Persistent chemicals are highly resistant to breakdown processes, and therefore persist in the environment, followed by uptake into the food chain.

Can dioxins cause cancer?

There is evidence to suggest that exposure to dioxins at very high levels (following industrial accidents) has been associated with an increase in the incidence of cancer in humans.

Are there maximum levels set for dioxins in food?

Maximum levels (MLs) for dioxins are set by Commission Regulation No 1881/2006, the framework EU legislation which sets maximum levels for chemical contaminants in foodstuffs. MLs are set at a very low level (as low as reasonably achievable for the particular foodstuff in question), in order to ensure that consumers' health is not affected by consuming these products.

Are there maximum levels set for dioxins in feed?

Yes. Separate legislation applies to levels of dioxins and PCBs in animal feeds, since this is another important source of contamination of the human food chain.

What levels were found in the pigmeat?

The samples tested indicated a wide range of dioxin levels, all above the maximum levels set by legislation.

How were the dioxins found?

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) discovered the presence of marker PCBs, indicative of dioxin contamination, in pork fat during routine monitoring of the food chain for a range of contaminants. Samples were sent to a laboratory in the UK for further analysis to determine if there were dioxins present. Results have confirmed that dioxins were present in the samples.

Is any routine sampling carried out or was this found by accident?

The FSAI, in collaboration with its official agencies, carries out regular checks on levels of dioxins and PCBs in the food chain. Approximately 70 samples of pig fat are analysed for PCBs annually. Previously, the results of these checks have shown that the levels in Irish food are generally low compared with other industrialised countries.

Are other meat products affected?

Samples of other meats have not tested positive for dioxins to date.

Should consumers be concerned?

Even though it is illegal for dioxins to be present in foodstuffs, any possible risk to consumer health is extremely low.

Do dioxins affect children?

Children are expected to be affected by dioxins in the same way as adults, although they may be more sensitive.

Could I have been exposed to dioxins?

Consumers are exposed to dioxins at low levels on a daily basis from a potentially wide range of sources including car emissions, smoking and fires. Until now, surveillance work undertaken by the FSAI indicates that the general exposure of consumers in Ireland is low when compared to other European countries, and well below the maximum intake established by international risk assessment bodies.

To ensure consumers are fully protected, this maximum intake level also incorporates very large safety margins compared to any level that might cause effects in experimental animals. Therefore, any increased exposure to dioxins for a short period is highly unlikely to lead to any health effects.

If I have eaten an affected product, has my health been damaged?

There is no risk of immediate illness. If you have eaten an affected product the risk is likely to be very small, however not eating it any more is a sensible thing to do. It is continued high level exposure over time that gives cause for concern.

If the risk is very small why are all pork and bacon products removed from sale?

Dioxins are toxic and persistent and consumers should not be exposed to them unnecessarily. It is also illegal in foods.

Could I have some products at home that contain dioxins?

All raw and cooked pork and bacon products, made with Irish pork since 1 September, could possibly be contaminated.

They include:
Pork
Bacon
Rashers
Pork sausages
Sausage meat
Gammon steaks
Offal from pigs (kidney, liver, heart)
Crubeens
Salami
Ham
Sausage rolls (made with Irish pork meat)
Black pudding
White pudding
Pork suet (lard)
Casings
Pork pâté
Pork pies
Ready made ham sandwiches
Ready made bacon sandwiches
Lardons
Ready made pizza with ham, pepperoni, bacon (made with Irish pork/bacon)
Ready meals with Irish pork/bacon as an ingredient

Not included
Pork gelatine
Products with pork gelatine such as sweets
Crisps and snack foods
Sauces with pork/ham content

It is advisable to not to eat any products that may be contaminated.

FSA STATEMENT ON 6 DECEMBER, 2008

'The Government today announced that laboratory results of animal feed and pork fat samples obtained this afternoon by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) confirmed the presence of dioxins.

'Consequently, the FSAI is requiring the food industry to recall from the market all Irish pork products produced from pigs slaughtered in Ireland.

'This recall involves retailers, the hospitality sector and the Irish pig processing sector.

'Preliminary evidence indicates that the contamination problem is likely to have started in September 2008.

'The FSAI is advising consumers, as a precautionary measure, not to consume Irish pork and bacon products at this time.

'Investigations involving the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) and the FSAI are continuing to determine the extent of the contamination and to identify the processors and products involved.

'The FSAI and DAFF will provide updates as information becomes available.'