Sample cattle testing to continue on all farms

Wed, Dec 10, 2008, 00:00

FARM TESTING:INTENSIVE TESTING for dioxins in cattle on 45 farms where contaminated feed was used since September 1st will continue, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Minister for Agriculture and Food Brendan Smith said yesterday that animals from eight of the 11 farms tested so far had been found to have levels within the safety limits.

It emerged that 3,000 animals from these herds, some 0.2 per cent of the total annual production, had been slaughtered and had entered the food chain since the contamination began in September, when “inappropriate oil” was used in the manufacture of the animal feed.

There have been assurances from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, that the levels of contamination in these animals present “no adverse risk to public health”.

Asked if this meant the animals on the farms which had tested clear could now be released into the food chain, the department said that because testing was continuing, they would not.

“Sampling testing is continuing on all farms and nothing will move from any of the farms until the testing has been completed,” a department spokesperson said.

The Food Safety Authority last night issued an explanatory note which said that samples from beef cattle were tested for non-dioxins such as PCBs , the preliminary indicators of potential contamination, but did not confirm the presence of dioxins.

“The results show that eight out of the 11 samples were clear and three were just above the proposed legislative limits for non-dioxin like PCBs in beef,” it said.

“The PCBs in the three beef samples were found to be significantly lower than those found in the Irish pork samples. The FSAI also stated that PCB beef limits are completely different to those of pork.

“The FSAI has concluded that as these PCB levels pose an extremely low risk to public health, there is no requirement for a consumer level recall of Irish beef from the market.”

The statement continued: “This conclusion is also influenced by the facts that there is a substantially low level of incidence of PCBs in the samples, superior traceability for beef, combined with the fact that these farms are currently restricted and that animals from affected farms will not be released to the market.”

Alan Reilly, deputy chief executive at the Food Safety Authority, said the sample results represented 25 per cent of the restricted farms and given that eight of the 11 were clear, it was reasonable to assume the remaining farms would show similar low results.

The chief executive of the Irish Food Board, Aidan Cotter, accepted it would be a major challenge to hold on to all meat export markets because of the recall of Irish pork from world markets.