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FSAI Provides Update on Irish Beef Sample Results

10 December 2008

IRELAND - The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) yesterday confirmed it has reviewed and assessed the results of samples taken by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (DAFF) from 11 Irish beef herds.

The samples from beef cattle were tested for non-dioxin like PCBs; these are preliminary indicators of potential contamination – but do 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. 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. 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.


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"The results of these tests have given the all-clear to eight of the 11 farms"
Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Paddy Rogan.

This decision is based on the evaluation that the non-dioxin like PCBs in beef have significantly lower levels of PCBs than those which occurred in the Irish pork samples. Pork samples were deemed to be between 80-200 times the legal limit for dioxins, whilst beef samples assessed today were just two to three times the proposed new EU guidelines limit for PCBs. In addition, the beef from these three farms represent only a fraction of the 1.5 million national beef herd, as opposed to some 10% of the Irish pork and bacon market.

According to Mr Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, FSAI, it is reassuring that the results today show a much lower level of incidence, as compared to the pork samples.

“During September, cattle continued to be fed on grass and they would not have been reliant on this contaminated feed as compared to the implicated pigs that have had a high proportion of this crumb in their diet. In addition, beef is stored in premises to age for quality and a substantial amount of this beef would still be in storage.

“These sample results represent 25 per cent of the restricted farms. Given that eight of the 11 are clear, it is reasonable to assume that the remaining farms will show similar low results. As in the case of risk assessment for pork and bacon, our view continues to be that there is no cause for concern and any risk to health is extremely low for consumers,” concludes Mr Reilly.

“The results of these tests have given the all-clear to eight of the 11 farms,” said the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Paddy Rogan. Mr Rogan said that nevertheless the animals on these farms will be slaughtered and taken out of the food and feed chain. No product from these herds will be released onto the market.

Mr Rogan also emphasised that Ireland has an effective cattle monitoring and traceability system which tracks cattle on over 100,000 Irish farms. “Ireland's high standards of food safety and international reputation for quality food will not be put at risk, and therefore we will continue to act on a precautionary basis in relation to all aspects of this matter,” Mr. Rogan said.

Graham Furey of the Ulster Farmers' Union said, "There has been a very proportionate response in the Republic of Ireland. There is an entirely different risk assessment process for beef animals, which feed primarily on grass and silage, are much larger and have a different metabolism to pigs.

"In Northern Ireland the farms directly affected in this situation have been traced and no produce from those farms will enter the food chain. We hope that there will be a similar measured response in Northern Ireland and the beef industry can continue to trade as normal,” said Mr Furey.

The FSAI states that tests are continuing to be carried out on the remaining 34 farms by DAFF. The release of this beef to the market will be decided on a case by case basis in line with European Commission guidelines. Those with clear results will be released and those non compliant will be destroyed.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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