Shoppers queue for refunds as recall gets underway
Shops throughout the country have been removing pork products from their shelves and long queues have been forming at service desks in supermarkets as consumers return pork products and get refunds.
In one Superquinn store in Dublin, large numbers of consumers have been returning products since the store opened its doors this morning. Aside from the initial list of products that store managers were instructed to remove from sale prior to opening this morning, Superquinn is currently compiling a list of any other products that may be affected, including frozen goods.
It was expected to be complete its list by late afternoon. Products from non-Irish sources, which are not covered by the recall, will remain on the shelves.
A statement issued on behalf of the retail chain earlier this afternoon said its beef was free of any risk from the dioxin contamination, as the company had confirmed through its traceability system that none of its beef suppliers had contact with contaminated feed or animals.
Authorities last night revealed 38 beef farms in Ireland have been restricted because they were identified as having received possibly contaminated animal feed. However, only pork products have been recalled.
There have been calls for the Minister for Agriculture to make it clear that consumers will be fully refunded for the pork products which they have been told to dispose of at the point of purchase.
The recall "does not mean that the rights of consumers can be ignored," said Labour Party senator Dominic Hannigan.
The Department of Agriculture is meeting retailers today to discuss the recall and he said it was "vital that the interests of the consumer be fully taken on board".
He said consumers had spent money "on what they presumed to be top-quality Irish pork products, and that they are now being told to bin them".
He said he knew of several people who had bought Christmas hams in recent weeks and now faced the prospect of "being out of pocket at a time when they can ill-afford it".
Fine Gael spokesman on agriculture, Michael Creed, said Irish householders should be encouraged to seek a refund from retailers rather than binning the products.
“This morning in the media Irish householders were being encouraged to dispose of all pork and bacon products they may have in their homes due to the fact that they may be contaminated with potentially harmful dioxin-like PCBs," he said.
"However, the reality is that retailers will no doubt be reimbursed for any loss by producers so, in turn, it is only fitting that consumers are encouraged to take all unsafe food back to the point of purchase for a refund."
Mr Creed said the situation facing the Irish pig sector was "extremely grave", and called for extra help to promote theindustry when the scare has been properly dealt with, including extra funds for Bord Bia to help promote Irish pork products at home and abroad "when the time is right".
The National Consumer Agency confirmed this evening that consumers are entitled to be refunded on the affected pork meat and products.
"Under legislation consumers are entitled to repair, replacement or refund of a faulty product. In the case of pork meat or other food products containing pork, consumers are entitled to a refund as a repair or replacement does not apply in this instant," said chief executive of the National Consumer Agency, Anne Fitzgerald.
"While in general, consumers should have proof of purchase the NCA urges all retailers to be reasonable, particularly where products which are only sold by that retailer are concerned."
A spokeswoman for the FSAI said it had been advised by the Environmental Protection Agency that “there is no issue” in connection with consumers disposing of the pork products as part of a regular refuse collection.
It is not thought that the amount of dioxins in the pork would have any environmental impact with more, naturally occurring, dioxins found in other household waste particularly coal and woodfire ashes.
The spokeswoman did say that the FSAI preference was for consumers to return all affected products to the point of purchase where they could get a refund.
She said retailers had been asked not to put recalled products in landfill but to return them to the supply chain where they could be rendered as part of the normal animal waste disposal programmes.