FSAI moves to allay consumer fears

Sun, Dec 7, 2008, 00:00

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has moved quickly to assure consumers that the risks associated with consuming any of the Irish pork products which have now been recalled because of dioxin contamination are very small.

The authority insisted that health risks to the public were minimal and claimed the withdrawal was a precautionary measure.

The FSAI said all pork , bacon, rashers, pork sausages, sausage meat, gammon steaks, offal from pigs, salami, ham, sausage rolls, black and white pudding, and ready meals with Irish pork/bacon as an ingredient would have to be destroyed.

This afternoon the FSAI said a contaminated ingredient added to pork feed had been identified as the source of the scare, and said it was now considered that the profile of dioxins found is similar to those found in electronic transformer oils.

Non-dioxin like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs and dioxins are mostly found in insignificant levels but a small number are highly toxic and can cause a range of ailments from cancer to skin diseases and damage to the reproductive and immune systems.

Consumption of dioxins above safe levels over a lifetime may result in an increased risk of cancer. The World Health Organisation and the European Unions’ Scientific Committee for Food have determined the levels of exposure to dioxins which are safe. The pork tested this week had up to 200 times more dioxins than is considered safe.

The FSAI CEO Dr Alan Reilly has said only prolonged high level exposure could give cause for concern and said the total recall was precautionary.

The State's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said anyone who had eaten pig meat did not need to seek medical help.

He said that toxins were only dangerous if a person was exposed to it over a long period of time. “The period in question here is much shorter,” he said. Such effects should not arise as the exposure has been identified at an early stage.”

The FSAI has set up a helpline – 1890336677 and has added further information about the recall and the potential consequences to its website, www.fsai.ie.

The advisory line “has been hopping” with calls from concerned members of the public, an FSAI spokeswoman said.

"There is no risk of immediate illness,” she said . “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.”