FOLLOWING the general recall of all Irish Pork products last weekend by the HSE and the government, fears were allayed on Tuesday when the FSAI announced that the Irish beef industry was not to fall foul of a similar fate.
“Yes, preliminary tests have shown the presence of marker PCBs in a number of beef samples tested., but no, Irish beef is not being recalled.
With minor traces showing up amongst the tested herds, the FSAI stated that some may have exceeded the limits but not so much as to have to issue any health warnings.
“All animals in herds shown to be above the proposed legal limit will be taken out of the food chain. Any products from these herds will not be released onto the market. The European Commission is being informed of the results.
Outlining the reasons for not issuing a general recall on beef, the FSAI went on to say:
“Beef is not being recalled as it is considered that there is no public health concern. The reason for this is as follows:
Only 45 farms were supplied with potentially contaminated feed out of approximately 110,000 beef farms in the Republic of Ireland . The total number of cattle slaughtered from these herds from 1 st September amounts to some 3,000 out of a total annual slaughter of approximately 1.5 million. This represents 0.2% of total annual beef production in the Republic of Ireland .
Results from 11 of the 45 farms have become available. Of these, eight were clear and three were just above the proposed legislative limits for marker PCBs in beef. Tests are being carried out in the remaining farms, which remain under restriction until cleared.
The samples are technically non-compliant with proposed EC limits for marker PCBs but not at a level that would pose any public health concern. This is a different situation compared to pork products, where dioxin contamination was confirmed and the levels of dioxins were 80 to 200 times the legal limit.
Cattle consume a wider variety of feeds and the way their bodies process the feed is different, which makes the risk of contamination significantly lower than in pork.
There is a very robust traceability system in place for beef.
What are PCBs ?
PCBs are a similar set of compounds to the group of chemicals known as dioxins. Like dioxins, their toxicity depends on the chemical structure of each chemical in the group. Some PCB’s have similar toxicity to dioxins and these are called the dioxin-like PCBs. Other PCBs are sometimes referred to as marker-PCBs or non-dioxin-like PCBs and these are much less toxic than dioxins or dioxin-like PCBs.