Pork from Ireland contaminated with toxic dioxins could have reached to 25 countries, including France and the Netherlands, Irish government officials said on Sunday (December 7).
Reuters reported that the Irish government has recalled all domestic pork products from shops, restaurants and food processing plants because of contamination with dioxin -- which can cause cancer and other health problems with long exposure.
Ten farms in Ireland and further nine farms in the British province of Northern Ireland used contaminated swine feed that prompted Dublin to make the recall on Saturday.
Ireland's Food Minister Trevor Sargent said the contamination may have originated with the use of dried by-products of baking that were processed into animal feed. The fuel used in the drying process should be food-grade oil, he said.
Authorities in Britain--Ireland's main export market--have cautioned consumers not to eat any Irish pork products after tests revealed the contamination.
Chief Veterinary Officer Paddy Rogan there around 20 to 25 countries have gotten tainted pork.
The Irish government received notice from the French and Dutch authorities after they had received contaminated shipments of meat or processed foods which later turned out to have originated in Ireland, while Belgium received contaminated by-products.
Laboratory tests over the weekend show that Ireland's animal feed and pork fat that the presence of dioxins content was at 80-200 times the safe limits. Irish experts say preliminary evidence indicated the problem was likely to have started in September of this year, it added.
British supermarket group Asda, owned by US retail giant Wal-Mart, said it was pulling all Irish pork products from its shelves.
The Irish Exporters Association said the total exports of pork and related added value products such as pizzas, pies and sandwiches containing pork was about 750 million euros (US$950 million). Sixty percent of this went to the UK, they said.
However, experts believe the risk to consumers was low.
Professor Alan Boobis, toxicologist at Imperial College London said these compounds take a "long time to accumulate in the body, so a relatively short period of exposure would have little impact on the total body burden".
He added that "one would have to be exposed to high levels for a long period of time before there would be a health risk."
Irish officials compared the case to a contamination scare in Belgian poultry in 1999, which has not been found to have had any negative health effects. They added that pork products would return to the shelves within days.