Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I was concerned that the dioxin pork scandal was being brushed under the carpet so I was encouraged to hear the Oireachtas Committee's report had issued today. This scandal is a perfect example of a scandal which cannot be buried because the public/consumers need reassurance.

A quick read is not reassuring.

Firstly, the Chairman's preface is as limp as a sausage. Here is an opportunity for the Oireachtas to assert itself and lash who have failed in their statutory responsibility. Above all, the Committee should demonstrate its determination to protect consumers.

Instead, the Chairman blandly repeats that
Consumers were
reassured that there was no immediate risk to health.
and the Committee's concern was the serious difficulties facing the agri-food industry following the contamination incident
Of course, this is the "Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food", not a consumer protection group.

We've come to accept the reality that Oireachtas Committee's cannot investigate individuals so I was not expecting any determination on the feed plant that produced the poison (the report simply notes that there is a Garda investigation).

That leaves a number of major questions which the Committee could answer:

I. How did the licencing / supervisory system not prevent this disaster?
2. Why did all the pigs in Ireland have to be slaughtered when maybe 10% had been fed this poison?

On 1, the main failure is [QUOTE]the food recycling plant at the centre of
the contamination incident had not been inspected at all in 2008 by the Department of Agriculture inspectors and, while holding a permit from Carlow County Council, was not inspected by the Council at all since being issued with its permit in 2006[/QUOTE]

Not inspected at all, at all :eek:

But at least our labs. caught the problem, right? Well, that's what the Committee wants us to believe. Its chronology begins, not with the production of the poisoned feed but with the lab tests.

On Tuesday 19 November 2008, an officer of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (the Department) took routine samples, under the national residue monitoring programme, of pork fat from pigs slaughtered at a plant in County Longford, and submitted them for analysis at the Department’s pesticides control laboratory in County Kildare. On Friday 28 November, the analysis results indicated the presence of marker polychlorinated byphenols, more commonly referred to as PCBs. In accordance with standing procedures under the service contract between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Department, the FSAI was advised of these findings at the time.

Hmm... but if the problem was detected in sample from mid-November, why did they go back to 1 September with the destruction of pork?

The 1 September date was chosen on the basis of the information provided by the Dutch authorities.

The only other mention of the Dutch is a statement that on
Friday 5 December, the Dutch authorities, following sight of the Department’s press release, contacted the Department and the FSAI about an independent investigation into the presence of PCBs in pork fat samples originating in Ireland from mid-September.

This is interesting. Did the Dutch only only tell us about the PCBs U]after[/U] we had recalled all pork? Did they leave pork with PCB on their market until we recalled our pork?

So many questions but the Committee ask any Dutch witness. They talked to someone from the European Food Safety Authority but she was not in the loop before we made the recall.

evidence available to the Committee indicated that PCB dioxins had been identified in pork by up to three Member States during September and October, although the country of origin of the contaminated product could not be identified. EFSA was not notified of the test results and no there was no EU-wide recall of product. The Irish decision to institute an immediate and total recall appeared somewhat contradictory, particularly when beef was not subjected to such a recall.
Very confusing and the Committee didn't seem to anxious to dig further.

Here's an appalling vista: not only did the licencing / supervisory authorities fail but

The Committee does make a sensible finding:
Given that the feed chain was identified in the Belgian dioxin scandal as the
source of contamination, the Committee is perplexed by the assessment of feed
production as a low risk enterprise. The feed chain is critical to consumer safety and the
survival of the food industry in Ireland. The Belgian scandal, the BSE crisis and the foot
and mouth outbreak all resulted from inappropriate material being included in animal
feed. For this reason, the Committee considers feed production must be ascribed a higher
level of risk, and a protocol must be established whereby the feed itself is tested

Is it coincidental that this report is published the day after the feed supplier, Millstream, was in court defending an action by a Northern Ireland farmer whose herd was destroyed when they were found to have unacceptable levels of dioxin? Of course, farmers in the Republic needn't bother suing anyone because the taxpayers will, as always, come to their rescue. The Committee did not feel the need to mention insurance. Even if Millstream has insurance, it would be limited to damage directly caused by its feed and would hardly cover the destruction of the national herd.

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