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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Can the government save our bacon?

There never is a good to have any crisis in confidence in food, I remember the food poisoning scare about British eggs, Austrian wine and BSE to name a few, but what’s different about PCB’s in pork is that it is already in the food you may have eaten. Unlike foot and mouth disease which was damaging because it had financial implications for farmers, this severly knocks the confidence in the food we eat. The pork and bacon industry has contracted and consolidated around several large farms and the image of pigs in the parlour of Irish agriculture is long gone. This crisis will have major implications for Irish pork producers and those who work in food processing, it will affect Irish exports and harm our image as a green food producer. It must e dealt with rapidly. It really is more grief heaped upon the misery of the recent months. Anyone involved in food production will tell you that having a product for sale in December is essential for good business.

The entire “Porkgate scandal” raises some interesting questions that have yet to be answered; Where are the farms identified as having used the contaminated product? Can the miller be prosecuted if it is shown that he knowingly used contaminated oil in the production process? Who’ll carry the €100M cost to the tax payer arising from the scandal? Has the feed turned up in other countries? If so is it positive for PCB’s? Why after all the millions spent on state of the art laboratories does the state not have the ability to identify these toxins in the foodchain. PCB’s are a chemical for which planning authorities require strict processing in the event of their removal from a factory building to be demolished. Why should consumers not be protected better?
But I wonder why organic pork has been removed from the shelf? Surely the consumer can trust organic pork? Why has all pork, Irish and non Irish been treated like, is this an attempt to stop importers getting a toe in the Irish market?
The record of the Department off Agriculture in tackling FMD and BSE is good if they have the resources but I wonder if when incomes are poor and the word gets out that PCB presence is quite low whether many people actually will follow the advice and destroy the meat.

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