Wednesday 21 August 2019

Processed meat industry recovering from WHO cancer finding - Murrin

Larry Murrin, CEO of Dawn Farm Foods
Larry Murrin, CEO of Dawn Farm Foods
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The recent WHO report, which said processed meat causes cancer, "absolutely damaged and harmed" sales in the domestic Irish market - but sales appear to be recovering now, according to Dawn Farm Foods chief executive, Larry Murrin.

"We weren't impacted, as we don't produce branded processed meats - but I do know the community and I do know there was a short-term impact, while people sorted through all the noise," Murrin said.

"I think there were very balanced responses to that by the health authorities, by people like the Food Safety Authority here in Ireland, who put all of that into perspective. I really think that the WHO made a mess of both their communications and the messaging."

Examples of processed meat products are ham, sausages, bacon and salami. The WHO report put these products in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol, as being "carcinogenic to humans".

Afterwards, the Food Safety Authority said that the classification system "indicates the weight of the evidence as to whether an agent is capable of causing cancer. It does not measure the likelihood that cancer will occur as a result of exposure (that is, the level of risk), so it is not an indication of how potent the agent is as a carcinogen."

Murrin, a former president of Ibec, was part of a prepared consumer foods advisory group established by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to make recommendations for the future of the sector. In September of last year, the group recommended setting up a €500m fund, using money from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to help companies in the sector invest. The fund has not yet been established.

A Department of Agriculture spokesman said the department "has been exploring new and more competitive sources of funding and will continue to do so in the context of evolving market requirements."

Murrin said: "We have the resources and we have the methodologies to resolve this but we just need cast-iron political will in a couple of departments, not just Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We require the Department of Finance to embrace the concept of creating appropriate funding propositions and delivery channels that Irish food manufacturers can actually engage with.

"We're not looking to throw state-aid rules out the window - but we need to have a set of state-aid rules that recognise the crucial importance of the food industry to Ireland's economy. That, for me, is the big challenge around actually delivering here - because there are so many miniscule details involved in state-aid rules that we actually need a few things tweaked to acknowledge and recognise the circumstances that Ireland has found itself in as a consequence of the last six years."

He called on Irish businesses to campaign to keep Britain in the European Union. "Europe would be a poorer place without Britain and Britain would be a poorer place without Europe, frankly. So we have to find ways to convey those messages at both a political and social level.

"If Irish businesses have businesses in Britain, then there's a little bit of additional onus in how the connectivity between prosperity and sustainability in jobs terms in Britain is communicated to the people who work in our businesses."

Sunday Indo Business

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