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FSAI Provides Update on Irish Beef Sample Results

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today confirmed it has reviewed and assessed the results of samples taken by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (DAFF) from 11 Irish beef herds. The samples from beef cattle were tested for non-dioxin like PCBs; these are preliminary indicators of potential contamination – but do not confirm the presence of dioxins. The results show that eight out of the 11 samples were clear and three were just above the proposed legislative limits for non-dioxin like PCBs in beef. The PCBs in the three beef samples were found to be significantly lower than those found in the Irish pork samples. The FSAI also stated that PCB beef limits are completely different to those of pork.

The FSAI has concluded that as these PCB levels pose an extremely low risk to public health, there is no requirement for a consumer level recall of Irish beef from the market. This conclusion is also influenced by the facts that there is a substantially low level of incidence of PCBs in the samples, superior traceability for beef, combined with the fact that these farms are currently restricted and that animals from affected farms will not be released to the market.

This decision is based on the evaluation that the non-dioxin like PCBs in beef have significantly lower levels of PCBs than those which occurred in the Irish pork samples. Pork samples were deemed to be between 80-200 times the legal limit for dioxins, whilst beef samples assessed today were just 2-3 times the proposed new EU guidelines limit for PCBs. In addition, the beef from these three farms represent only a fraction of the 1.5 million national beef herd, as opposed to some 10% of the Irish pork and bacon market.

According to Mr Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, FSAI, it is reassuring that the results today show a much lower level of incidence, as compared to the pork samples.

During September, cattle continued to be fed on grass and they would not have been reliant on this contaminated feed as compared to the implicated pigs that have had a high proportion of this crumb in their diet. In addition, beef is stored in premises to age for quality and a substantial amount of this beef would still be in storage.

These sample results represent 25% of the restricted farms. Given that eight of the 11 are clear, it is reasonable to assume that the remaining farms will show similar low results. As in the case of risk assessment for pork and bacon, our view continues to be that there is no cause for concern and any risk to health is extremely low for consumers," concludes Mr Reilly.

The FSAI states that tests are continuing to be carried out on the remaining 34 farms by DAFF. The release of this beef to the market will be decided on a case by case basis in line with European Commission guidelines. Those with clear results will be released and those non compliant will be destroyed.