Lead collars recalled in probe into cow deaths
Inspectors have been visiting dairy farms unwittingly using lead weights on collars after a recall was ordered following the deaths of cows from suspected poisoning.
One farmer, who had been a trial farm for the firm that makes the collars, told how he was "surprised" to learn the weights were made from lead that is highly toxic to animals.
He only found out about the issue when the company rang him to alert him that inspectors from the Department of Agriculture would be calling after at least seven cows at a north Cork farm died from suspected lead poisoning.
The farmer, who had the collars removed and replaced with new ones, stressed he had encountered no difficulties with the collars and stressed they had proven to be a highly successful aid for his herd.
The food watchdog has confirmed it is satisfied there is no risk to consumers after milk from the farm, which supplies to Ireland's largest farmer-owned dairy business, Dairygold Co-operative Society, was prohibited from entering the food chain.
However, Kerry Foods, which produces the well-known butter brand Dairygold, moved swiftly to distance itself from the suspected lead poisoning and stated it was not supplied by Dairygold Co-operative Society.
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association's (ICMSA) president John Comer said the incident would be very distressing for the farmer but unfortunately issues do arise from time to time on farms.
He said it was "reassuring for consumers" that the testing regimes in place identified the issue and appropriate measures were put in place.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said it performed an assessment on the product from the farm that had entered the food chain before the restriction and found there was no risk.
The department said the investigations are focused on "degrading lead weights on collars worn" by the cows.
It confirmed weights were removed from a small number of farms using the weights and there is no evidence of similar problems on those farms.
Edmond Harty, from Dairymaster, which produces the MooMonitor that allows farmers to monitor by phone when their cows are ready for breeding, stressed that his company never used or uses lead weights in any of their collars.
"Lead is a toxic substance and you have to take that into account in the design principle," he said.