Some Irish Beef and Pork Contaminated with Dioxin

Irish authorities are recalling pork products after detecting elevated levels of dioxin contamination on 10 pig farms. The dioxin levels were up to 200 times the allowable limit. Contamination has also been discovered in 3 cattle herds as well but reportedly at much lower levels. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued 3 recalls for imported pork products from Ireland.

The elevated dioxin levels were detected during routine monitoring of Irish pork. The toxicity in humans is related to the accumulation of dioxins throughout a person's lifetime. Given the most likely estimate of pork consumption, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has estimated that the average consumer of pork fat may have increased his or her body burden by about 10% as a result of this event. EFSA has determined this increase to be of no concern to the average consumer.

Investigators believe that the source of the dioxin was animal feed from one supplier. The contamination resulted from exposure of the feed to oil used in a machine utilized in the manufacture of animal feed. The type of oil suspected in this case has not been used in American feed mills for 20 years according to the American Feed Industry Association.

Dioxins occur naturally in the environment and are usually associated with the process of combustion including burning of household trash and agricultural burning. Industrial processes may also produce dioxins but the release of these compounds is strictly controlled. Dioxins range in toxicity. The most toxic types of dioxin can cause birth defects, cancer, and other severe problems in humans.

Authorities assure U.S. consumers that pork continues to be safe and the National Pork Board is using this event as an opportunity to remind U.S. swine producers about the importance of safely handling feed and feed ingredients to prevent possible contamination of any type. PQA Plus' Good Production Practices 7 and 8 provide a good summary of best practices to reduce the risk associated with the marketing of adulterated products and to ensure the safe handling of feed and feed ingredients.

[Thanks to the National Pork Board for providing information for this article.]