Chinese to return over 23 tonnes of dioxin-scare pork

 

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SEÁN Mac CONNELL, Agriculture Correspondent

 

THE CHINESE authorities have seized more than 23 tonnes of frozen Irish pork found to be contaminated with dioxin and have ordered its return to Ireland, the State media agency, Xinhua, said yesterday.

Irish pork has been banned from China since the recall of the product on December 6th last, and the weekend report highlights the difficulties involved in the recall since the dioxin scare began.

The pork was imported by a company in the city of Suzhou in October, the official Xinhua news agency said, adding that inspectors sealed the pork and ordered the company to send it back.

The Irish Food Board confirmed it had met the Chinese Health Authorities in Beijing on January 16th to brief them on the recall and they appeared satisfied with the arrangement. The assumption had to be that the pork was part of the consignments which were covered by the recall.

On Thursday last a Dáil committee investigating the dioxin scare was told significant quantities of pigmeat were still being held abroad, and ability to deal with the problem would determine future trade in these markets.

Cormac Healy, director of the Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors, said China, South Africa and South Korea were still refusing to take Irish pork.

The maintenance of our reputation in the marketplace and our ability to retain important customers for Irish pigmeat is equally dependent on how the entire recall process is handled, he told the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee.

Paul Kelly, director of Food and Drink Industry Ireland, said seven weeks on from the initial recall there was still significant confusion in export markets about procedures for verification and disposal of product.

The ongoing confusion has the potential to disrupt hard won supply contracts and reputation and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, he said.

Bord Bia s chief executive, Aiden Cotter, said there was a reluctance in Britain and continental Europe to source Irish pigmeat product in the short term due to uncertainty over the operation of the recall, and compensation for the affected product. The speed at which the product recall can be completed therefore is a significant issue. Once all recalled product has been removed from the marketplace, trade can then build further, he said.

A Reuters report noted China s food safety scandals in recent years, including the mass contamination of infant formula with melamine, which is believed to have caused the deaths of at least six babies and made thousands ill.

But Beijing also likes to point out this is a global issue in which China is a victim too of poor quality imports, it concluded.

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed it has removed four cattle herds comprising 750 cattle which were exposed to the contaminated feed. The process of killing and destroying what is expected to be 4,500 cattle in total continues.

The authorities have slaughtered and destroyed 100,000 pigs and work is continuing to remove another 30,000 pigs, mainly sows.

 

January 26, 2009

 

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