European food body says Irish pork is safe to eat


There are no adverse health effects to the consumption of Irish pork contaminated with dioxins, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded.

In a statement which will provide comfort for Irish authorities and assuage the concerns of consumers, the EFSA says if a person ate an average amount of Irish pork daily since September 1st, 10 per cent of which was contaminated with the highest recorded concentration of dioxins, there would be “no concern” for human health.

In an extreme case, where someone ate a large amount of pork, 100 per cent contaminated with the highest recorded concentration of pork, the EFSA says the safety margin would be “considerably undermined”.

However, since the margins for acceptable weekly intake have a 10-fold safety margin, the group says that while protection would be reduced, it would “not necessarily lead to adverse health effects”.

EFSA said in a statement it has based its conclusions on limited data provided by the Commission in relation to contamination levels and took into account the fat content of products containing pork, as well as consumption patterns across Europe.

Its statement was based on the assumption that exposure at high levels only began in September 2008 and that effective measures had now been taken to remove this excessive exposure from Irish pork and pork products.

It says levels of dioxins in pork and pork products depend on the fat content, because dioxins accumulate in the fat. The longer the exposure and the higher the fat content, the more dioxins accumulate and stay in the animal’s body.

In humans, once exposure ends, the body burden begins to decrease.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) welcomed the assessment from EFSA.

"EFSA’s opinion provides another reassurance to consumers that there is no cause for concern and any risk to health is extremely low for consumers," said Alan Reilly, deputy chief executive with the FSAI.

Elsewhere, Fine Gael said the report would reassure the general public about the safety of Irish pork.

“It is good to hear that product which has been certified as safe and not originating from the farms affected by the contamination is beginning to return to the shops. However, this is a limited supply; restoration of
consumer confidence and demand must be met by the resumption of pork processing, said Fine Gael's Agriculture spokesman Michael Creed.

The Labour Party said EFSA's announcemnt was a significant response and said it should send a positive message, both to the domestic and to the export market.

"We now need a strong political response to this news, as it brings us one step closer to completely allaying the fears of Irish consumers," said Sean Sherlock, the party's spokesman on Agriculture and Food.

"We need to see a return to production so that the industry can begin the process of recovery, workers can get back to work, and consumers can once again enjoy Irish pig meat products," he added.

This evening, it as announced that the Department of Agriculture had agreed a mechanism to get certified organic pigmeat products back on the shelves.

Producers must provide documentary evidence that no contaminated animal feed material was procured and consumed by animals from September 1st 2008, and that no pigs which had consumed contaminated material had been introduced onto that farm. They must also produce proof of the herd of origin.

The guidelines apply not only to future slaughterigns, but also to products from pigs already slaughtered.

"I am pleased that this first step has been taken to alleviate the pressures on organic pig producers. The Government is working extremely hard to reach an agreement with the pig processing industry to enable slaughtering to re-commence as quickly as possible", said Minister for Food and Horticulture Trevor Sargent. concluded.