Free bacon sarnies mark pork’s return to Northern Ireland menu
Northern Ireland pork was back on the menu in Belfast yesterday — and customers were eager to bite into their bacon butties.
The Merchant Hotel in the city centre offered free bacon sandwiches all day to celebrate the news that Northern Ireland’s pork was in the clear. Staff said diners kept on requesting pork throughout the crisis — when the hotel withdrew selected items from its menu for two days — and were glad to see it make a comeback.
Executive chef Tony O’Neill said the Merchant is a proud champion of locally grown meat. He avoided binning the hotel’s stock of pork when news of the crisis broke, instead keeping it refrigerated and ready to use.
Mr O’Neill said: “We were advised to hold on by the Environmental Health Service on Monday night, and on Tuesday morning we got the all-clear. We source everything locally, including our bacon and our sausages, so we were sure none of our suppliers had been affected by the contamination.”
He added: “I think the whole thing has been overblown. I don’t think the government has been fully aware of the real situation until this morning (Tuesday), so there has been an awful lot of confusion.
“It’s been devastating for farmers and people in the industry.”
Joanne Doherty, a customer visiting the hotel for lunch yesterday, said: “I definitely think it’s a good thing Northern Irish pork is back on the menu here. I would be confident eating it, I think it’s fine. In the future the government should be more careful in sending the right message out because this kind of thing can affect the whole economy.”
Her friend Ann McDermott said: “There have been confusing messages coming out about the crisis since Sunday, and we’ve seen retailers taking things off their shelves, but I’d still be happy eating pork.”
Moyallon Foods, which supplies meat to the Merchant and other Belfast restaurants, voluntarily suspended deliveries on Monday but resumed on Tuesday after receiving written guarantees from its farms that its pork was clean.
Managing director Jilly Dougan said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Merchant and others are putting pork back on the menu, but we’re worried that the Food Standards Agency has shaken the public’s confidence.”