European Union food safety experts joined investigations in Ireland in determining how ingredients contaminated with dioxins found their way into feeds supplied to pig units in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. This follows the decision of the Irish government to order the recall of all pork products processed in Ireland since 1 September 2008 for domestic and export markets.
In a statement to membership, Deirdre Webb, director of the Irish Grain and Feed Association (IGFA), said that the government had assured the association that the contaminated feed was waste bread originating from a food recycling business and not from a commercial feed manufacturer, but that there had been no reporting of that fact by journalists or in statements from government officials. Travelers in some countries in Europe reported receiving written warning not to consume pork, while media globally reported on the risk of contaminated pigmeat.
Source of dioxins
Samples sent for laboratory testing confirmed the contamination in pigmeat and in feed supplied by an Irish mill. The problem was found to have arisen in grain-replacement meal sold to the feedmill by Millstream Recycling, which processes bakery and confectionery waste into animal feed materials at a site in south-west Ireland. Early speculation has been that the dioxins originated from diesel oil used to dry the bread and dough or from oil applied to the drying machines. Irish reports stated the type of dioxins isolated is similar to those found in electronic transformer oils.
Ireland's exports of 129,000 metric tons of pigmeat last year were worth about 370 million and destinations included the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, France, China and USA. A complete recall covering product from all 400 pig units in the Irish Republic had to be ordered because of the near-impossibility of tracing pork back to the farm of origin, although dioxins were detected only in pigs from nine farms accounting for about 10% of national production.
"We believe it's in the order of 20 to 25 countries. It's certainly less than 30," Chief Veterinary Officer Paddy Rogan told a news conference in December, speaking about how many countries could be affected.
Neighboring Britain, the main export market for Irish pork products, warned consumers not to eat any Irish pork products. France and the Netherlands notified Ireland they had received contaminated shipments of meat or processed foods which later turned out to have originated in Ireland, while Belgium received contaminated by-products, officials said.
The situation has prompted some in the ingredient industry to call for safer and more responsible sourcing of ingredients by feed manufacturers.