Lifestyle Health

Wednesday 26 July 2017

EU food watchdog says it's safe to eat Irish pork

Safe to eat: Irish pork products (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)
Safe to eat: Irish pork products (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Even people who consumed pork and bacon entirely contaminated with dioxins over the past three months would not "necessarily" suffer any ill effects to their health, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded yesterday.

The watchdog said even in extreme cases, adverse effects were unlikely because the upper limits of dioxins allowed in food allow for a tenfold built-in safety margin.

Tests had revealed dioxin levels were 100 times the legal maximum limit in some cases.

They found average consumers of pork and bacon have no cause for concern to their health.

The reassurance followed data supplied to the European body by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and confirms the original assessment of risk which nevertheless led to the removal of all pork and bacon products.

Commenting on the European report, Alan Reilly, deputy chief executive of the FSAI, said it provided "another reassurance to consumers that there is no cause for concern".

He said the product recall was taken as a "precautionary measure".

Despite its findings, the EFSA said it supported the Government's "risk management" decision to recall all Irish pork and bacon products.

The report said it has studied a limited data set provided by the European Commission in relation to contamination levels and had taken into account the fat content of products containing pork.

It also took into account consumption patterns across Europe and calculated the potential health effect if someone had been exposed to contaminated pork for 90 days since September.

"The longer the exposure and the higher the fat content, the more dioxins accumulate and stay in the animal's body," the report stated.


The report said in very extreme cases, where a consumer was a big eater of 100pc contaminated products over three months, the tenfold built-in safety margin would provide less protection, but it would not "necessarily lead to adverse health effects".

Meanwhile, a new Institute of Food and Health at University College, Dublin, was announced by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith yesterday, uniting 27 leading scientists, 55 postdoctoral fellows and 150 postgraduate students.

The aim is to develop a "better scientific understanding of the relationship between food and health".

"With the dramatic rise of obesity in the Irish and EU populations, the latest dioxin food scare in Irish pork, and the advent of personalised nutrition (based on people's genetic make-up) to tackle health conditions and the opportunity to develop functional foods to improve public health, this area of scientific enquiry and understanding has never been so crucial to the future health and welfare of our nation," Professor Mike Gibney, director of the new institute, said.

He added that scientific research findings by the new UCD Institute of Food and Health will inform Irish Government policy and EU policy.

He said that it would also help to promote public awareness of food and health issues.

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