Beef from 21 farms withdrawn after tests for dioxins

Fri, Dec 19, 2008, 00:00

BEEF FROM 21 cattle herds which received contaminated feed from the Co Carlow Millstream Recycling Plant is being withdrawn from the food chain on foot of dioxin test results from the UK.

These have shown four samples had higher levels of dioxins than those found in pork products which led to a temporary closure of the pork industry and the withdrawal of 10 per cent of Ireland's pigmeat output since September 1st.

However, last night Alan Reilly, deputy chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), said the levels found in the samples, which were 30 to almost 350 times above the EU allowable level, did not present a risk to public health.

"The dioxin levels in the four samples were higher than those found in the pork products. However, the level of concern is lower due to the lower likely exposure and the superior traceability systems that apply to beef that allow implicated product to be identified, isolated and withdrawn from the market.

"The extent of this contamination incident has now been determined, and the FSAI is satisfied that appropriate action has been taken," said Mr Reilly.

An FSAI statement said: "While the levels detected were above the legal limits, risk to public health is extremely low. The risk assessment carried out by the FSAI today indicates that, based on food consumption data, the exposure from beef is 300 times lower than that posed by the pork contamination.Therefore, consumers should have no concerns in relation to health risks and retailers are not required to take any action.

"Farms that could have potentially used contaminated feed have been restricted since December 5th. Today, Daff confirms that 21 out of 120,000 cattle farms in Ireland have been identified as receiving the implicated animal feed," it noted.

"As a strictly precautionary measure, given dioxin contamination has now been confirmed in the four samples, the FSAI is recommending to Daff that cattle which are locked down from these 21 farms should now be slaughtered and not allowed enter the food chain," it continued.

"The trade withdrawal of implicated carcasses from any of the 21 farms which was initiated last Tuesday is continuing, and these too will not enter the food chain," it said.

"Initially, 52 farms were identified as potentially having received contaminated feed. However, it is now confirmed that only 21 farms actually took possession of this feed. The actual number of cattle farms is extremely low, representing 0.02 per cent of the total national number of cattle farms," the FSAI statement said.

Mr Reilly said the FSAI had been in touch with the European Food Safety Authority which had set the parameters of the safety levels and agreed there was no risk to public health.

He said the beef which was not already eaten would be removed and destroyed on farms in the Republic, and he thought this beef would date back to mid-November.