A total pork-product recall from Ireland has been implemented after slaughterhouse tests confirmed high levels of a cancer-causing toxin in meat. The substance has come from contaminated feed and is a big blow to Ireland's domestic and export pig industry. Irish authorities say pork contaminated with dioxin may have been exported to as many as 25 countries, a day after the potentially cancer-causing substance was detected in slaughtered pigs.
Irish pig producers are calling it an absolute disaster.
An international warning has gone out, and all Irish pork items produced since September 1st are being recalled.
The strict move followed the discovery of high levels of dioxins in routine meat samples.
It is not known how the dixon-PCBs got into the pig feed in the first place, but it is a substance that has been banned in Ireland since the 1970s.
"The levels in the pork itself were in the region of about 80 to 200 times above the safe limits," said Alan Reilly, the chief executive of the Irish Food and Safety Authority.
It is believed that the known cancer-causing agent came from a single supplier of contaminated feed that was used on about 50 farms.
In Ireland, grocery stores, pubs and restaurants are being asked to send all of their recent pork purchases back to their suppliers and the general public is being urged not to consume any of its domestic pork.
But the issue goes much further than that.
Ireland's pig industry is worth more than $600 million per year. Much of the product is exported to Europe and Asia.
Last year, more than 113,000 tons of meat was shipped overseas. Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche says immediately pulling the product is a tough, but correct decision.
"Our reaction to it has been instantaneous. We made certain that producers know of the problem. We made absolutely certain that customers and consumers know the problem. We take strong action to remove any possibly contaminated product from the shelves," said Roche.
Experts say the danger of the contaminant would come from ingesting the tainted meat over a long period of time, but consumers are being urged to throw out any Irish pork they might have.
About 7,000 people are employed in Ireland's pig industry. The country's major pork-producing international competitors include Brazil, the U.S. and Canada.