Oil fumes at recycling plant may have contaminated feed


INVESTIGATION:THE USE of oil at a recycling plant near Bunclody, Co Wexford, to recycle unused food into pig rations, is at the centre of the investigation into the source of contaminated pork products.

Stale bread, out-of-date biscuits, chocolate and dough from feed plants are heated and turned into food for animals at a number of plants in the country and it was during this process something went wrong.

The investigation into the source of Ireland’s largest food scare since BSE began with the routine sampling of a pig carcass on September 19th.

However, it was weeks later, on November 26th, when the routine sample showed up a high level of dioxin-like PCBs. The pig was traced back to its farm of origin and then the food it had eaten was sampled. These too showed contamination.

This led to an inspection of all the farms which had been supplied by the same source – 10 pig farms and 38 beef farms. Samples were sent to a laboratory capable of identifying individual toxins and the preliminary reports back from the UK sparked the withdrawal of all pork products.

Dutch health authorities had also contacted Irish officials after they found high levels of PCBs in four carcasses of pigs from Ireland, while there were also reports of contaminated pig samples from France and Belgium.

The authorities believe they have the problem ringfenced and no more samples of what have been described as the “dirty dozen” really harmful dioxins will emerge.

The investigation has focused on the food-recycling facility which supplied the animal feed. In particular, it is looking at the use of oil in the recycling process at the plant, Millstream Recycling, near Bunclody on the Carlow/Wexford border.

In a statement the company confirmed it had been working with the Department of Agriculture and Food officials to identify the source of PCBs found in pig meal in a number of farms in Ireland.

“Accepting the need for a recall, Millstream will be carrying out a full investigation to establish how the company’s strict health and safety procedures and the high quality standards could possibly have been breached,” said the statement.

“In the meantime, Millstream will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture andFood to ensure that any product sold to the pig industry in recent weeks is identified and recalled,” it added.

The company’s co-operation was confirmed by the chief veterinary officer Paddy Rogan.

While the oil taken from the recycling plant has yet to be analysed, experts working on the case believe fumes from the drier may have caused the problems.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said in a statement “The use of a contaminated ingredient added to pork feed is identified as the source of the contamination”.

“It is now considered that the profile of dioxins found is similar to those found in electronic transformer oils,” the statement continued.

None of the thousands of pigs involved in the lockdown of the pig farms have been slaughtered yet and it will be late tomorrow before results of tests on samples from cattle will be known.