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Frontline listeners put the pork crisis in perspective

You HAVE to feel sorry for Ed Hick. His butcher's shop sells one main product -- pork. This week his shelves were cleared of produce as the pig alert went into overdrive. He told Pat Kenny he had been forced to organise the slaughter of organic pigs in the south of Italy and have them shipped to Ireland so he could ensure his customers "100pc chemical-free meat".

But the burning question on Monday morning was -- did the Government overreact and cause unnecessary hysteria?

Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert microbiologist from the University of Aberdeen, explained that even those of us who spent our weekend noshing into a big rasher and sausage fry-up had little to worry about.

"These compounds are only toxic at really high levels," he reassured.

"At the end of the day you can never say something is absolutely safe, but at the levels we are talking about -- I don't think there is any need to be worried.

"But the move is about keeping people's confidence in the checking system. The reaction may seem to be over the top, but I don't think the Irish Government had any choice."

Listener Brendan Lynch in Wicklow did not agree. His email was to the point.

"Saturday night, 8pm news: Government -- emergency news conference. . . Irish pork toxic. . . destroy all pork in your house. Sunday morning talk shows: Trevor Sergeant -- 'As a safety precaution throw out all pork products, but we are nearly sure that most pork products are safe and will be back in the shelves early next week'. Monday morning news: Food Safety Authority -- it was/is safe to eat pork products. They won't harm you."

He went on to voice the thoughts of a nation -- "What a bunch of idiots running the country. Instead of quietly ascertaining the facts and acting on the information, they broadcast internationally that Irish pork is toxic. In one misjudged news conference the Government wiped out a €360m industry just at its busiest time."

It would seem Mr Lynch believes the Government made a right pig's ear out of the whole crisis.

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