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Dioxin in milk ‘poses little health risk’

By Linda McKee

Milk from two Northern Ireland dairy herds has been held back from sale after it tested positive for dioxin contamination.

The animals on both farms were among those fed contaminated meal originating from the Co Carlow plant at the centre of the recent beef and pork scares.

Beef cattle from eight Northern Ireland herds were also found to have elevated dioxin levels.

The Food Standards Agency NI has restricted the milk from entering the food chain but has not ordered a recall of milk already produced by the two herds, insisting that consumers are not in any danger.

The agency said that while dioxin levels in the milk are higher than the legal limit, they do not breach safety limits. Over time, dioxin levels in the milk are expected to drop to below the legal limit, and the agency has set up a sampling programme to monitor the process.

“These levels of dioxin are much lower than those found in pork and beef affected by feed contamination last year. The risk to health is extremely low,” an FSANI spokesperson said.

“The milk affected was distributed locally in Northern Ireland and also to the Republic of Ireland. The milk from these farms is usually mixed with milk from other farms before sale, so any finished product on the market is likely to be diluted and well within the legal limits for dioxins.

“The FSA is not calling for a withdrawal of any products from the shops but will continue to test and restrict the milk until it complies with the law.”

“Contamination of the milk is likely to be from dioxin residues in the fat of animals that had previously eaten contaminated feed.

“Dioxins are chemicals that get into food from the environment.”

Ulster Farmers Union president Graham Furey said the industry would continue to comply closely with FSA guidelines.

“The FSA has not recommended a product recall, but they have restricted milk on the two affected farms so that it will not enter the food chain,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson warned against hysterics over the issue.

“The FSA must not hype matters in a way that would unnecessarily damage public opinion.

“I have been offered a meeting with EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel on Tuesday on this very issue of dioxins,” he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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