Irish pork producers seek aid in tainted meat recall

By Andras Gergely

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s pork producers sought emergency aid on Monday to help foot a bill of at least 100 million euros ($128.2 million) after dioxin contamination caused meat to be pulled from shop shelves in more than 20 countries.

“We’re facing a major financial crisis, a major liquidity problem,” said Cormac Healy, director of The Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors (IAPP), adding that the industry has appealed for emergency financial help from the government.

Ireland’s farm minister Brendan Smith said he planned to meet with processors later on Monday to discuss the crisis.

“We will want to get processing back and we want to get Irish pork products back on the shelves as soon as possible,” Smith told reporters.

The European Commission said contaminated Irish pork had been shipped to 21 countries and territories, including Britain, France and Germany within the EU, and Japan, Russia, China and the United States outside the trading bloc.

Veterinary authorities said only 10 of Ireland’s 500 pig farms had been contaminated by dioxin-tainted feed, but they would not allow processing to restart anywhere until every producer could prove they were using clean feed.

The Irish government on Saturday ordered the food industry to recall all domestically produced pork products from shops, restaurants and plants because of contamination with dioxins, which in some forms and with long exposure can cause cancer.

“We can say the measures taken have been fairly exhaustive,” Commission health spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki told a news briefing. “The measures that the Irish authorities have taken are considered as sufficient at this stage.”

“They blocked everything … the whole system is in place, everything seems to function well,” she said.

Authorities also said nine farms in the British province of Northern Ireland had used contaminated pig feed.

Officials at Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the contamination was caused when non-food grade oil was used as fuel to dry waste food, which was then turned into animal feed. Rules state that the oil used in such a process must be food grade.

The European Commission said contaminated pork had been shipped from Ireland to 12 EU countries — Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Outside the bloc, contaminated pork was shipped to Canada, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, China, Hong Kong, and the United States.

The IAPP said pig slaughtering would not restart in Ireland for a number of days while logistical and financial problems were addressed.

“There are indications from my members already that, between debtors list and stock that they believe is in the system, we’re looking at a bill in the region of 100 million (euros),” IAPP’s Healy said. “And we’re just starting there.”  Continued…

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