European Union (EU) member states have been told to block all shipments of Irish pork meat and processed pork products after dioxin contamination was detected in the country, said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou on Monday.
"Member states have been requested to detain pork meat and processed pork meat products from Ireland and to control for the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)," she told reporters.
Very high levels of dioxins were confirmed on Saturday. The source of the contamination is thought to be contaminated animal feed.
Although only 10 pig farms were affected by the contamination incident, the Irish authorities have decided to recall from the market all pork products produced from pigs slaughtered since Sept.1 in the whole country. The decision was based on the fact that it is not possible to trace back the Irish pork meat and pork meat products to the farms affected by the incident.
The 10 affected farms have been closed, said Vassiliou.
Potentially contaminated Irish pork and processed pork products were shipped to 12 EU member states and nine non-EU countries and territories. Vassiliou said authorities in these countries and territories have been alerted.
The 12 EU countries affected are Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands. The nine non-EU countries and territories are Canada, China, Hong Kong of China, Japan, Russia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
Besides pig farms, the contaminated feed was also delivered to some cattle farms. However no dairy farms are affected. The affected cattle farms have been blocked and investigations are underway to determine whether the bovine meat is also contaminated. Vassiliou said the use of contaminated animal feed is much more limited in the cattle farms than in the pig farms.
The commissioner said the urgent measures taken by the Irish authorities are adequate and that no further steps are necessary at the moment. She said, however, the European Commission is watching the situation closely and will take further action if needed.