December 7, 2008 / 12:18 PM / 11 years ago

UK food agency says don't eat Irish pork

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Food Standards Agency warned consumers on Sunday not to eat pork from Ireland or Northern Ireland after Dublin ordered a recall of pigmeat due to contamination with potentially cancer-causing dioxins.

The FSA said it was investigating whether any contaminated pork or pork products had been distributed in the UK, which is a major importer of Irish pigmeat.

“The Food Standards Agency is today advising consumers not to eat pork or pork products, such as sausages, bacon, salami and ham, which are labeled as being from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland,” the FSA said on its website.

The Irish government said on Saturday that laboratory tests of animal feed and pork fat samples confirmed the presence of dioxins, with toxins at 80-200 times the safe limits. It ordered an immediate recall of all pork and pork products.

Ireland exported 368 million euros ($467 million) worth of pigmeat in 2007, half of it to Britain, but the FSA said it did not believe there was any “significant” risk.

“People shouldn’t be too concerned,” an FSA spokesman said. “It’s not an immediate toxic risk. With dioxins it’s a problem when you have exposure at high levels over a long period of time. We are only talking about a problem since September.”

He said the FSA was waiting for information from Irish authorities on the UK end destinations of Irish pork products.

“From the information that we have at this time we do not believe there is significant risk to UK consumers,” the FSA said.

The Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors said 10 farms had been using the tainted feed, responsible for less than 10 percent of Irish pigmeat production. It said the recall was a precautionary step.

Nine farms in Northern Ireland have used the contaminated pig feed, Ireland’s Newstalk radio said on Sunday.

Experts said the risk was low.

“These compounds take a long time to accumulate in the body, so a relatively short period of exposure would have little impact on the total body burden,” said Professor Alan Boobis, Toxicologist at Imperial College London.

“One would have to be exposed to high levels for a long period of time before there would be a health risk.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Elizabeth Piper

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