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Tyrone link to pork crisis

The oil that contaminated pig feed in the Republic with dioxins, sparking an Ireland-wide food scare, is suspected to have come from County Tyrone.

Milk supplies are now being restricted as the scope of the food scare widens, but Health Minister Michael McGimpsey insisted it it is safe to eat beef and drink milk.

The news comes as it was confirmed that vital hours were lost when the crisis hit in Northern Ireland because it took so long to notify Executive ministers.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey picked up answer machine messages about the scare on Sunday afternoon, some 16 hours after the Food Standards Agency was alerted to the unfolding situation. He told the Assembly that attempts were made to contact him that morning, but he was in church.

Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture was alerted to the crisis in Republic on Friday but Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew wasn’t informed until the following day.

The PSNI has confirmed that it has been asked to help gardai with their investigation into how the oil found it way into animal feed, which was then distributed to producers around the country.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the PSNI was contacted by gardai in connection with their investigation and will give them whatever assistance we can.”

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The type of oil used in a burner at the Millstream Recycling plant in Co Carlow to convert food products into animal feed was “inappropriate”, senior Irish Agriculture inspectors have reported.

Eight beef herds and one beef and dairy herd in Northern Ireland have been identified as having eaten the contaminated feed, although Northern Ireland’s pig herds have been given the all-clear.

Mr McGimpsey said: “One farm has been identified as having fed contaminated feed to dairy cattle. All milk from this farm has now been prevented from entering the food chain.

“All previous supplies of milk from this farm were sent to a single purchaser in the Republic of Ireland.”

The Food Standards Agency has now listed the meat processors in Ireland and the UK that have received affected pork products from the Republic. It stressed that the risk to human health from these products remains very low.

The processors are Elliotts Traditional in Portadown, Mourne Country Meats in Newry, Hilton Meat Products Ltd in Carrickfergus, Empire Meats Ltd in Rosslea, Millar Savoury Foods in Eglinton, Townsend Meats in Cullybackey, Glenpac Bacon Ltd in Newry, Treanor Traditional in Aughnacloy, Doherty and Gray Wholesale Meats in Ballymena, Eurostock Foods (NI) Ltd in Lurgan, and Townview Meats in Newry.

“For the time being, shops, manufacturers and caterers that can trace the origin of their products, whether they be meat joints or ingredients of mixed products such as sausages, directly to a farm that is unaffected by the contaminated feed, are able to continue selling their products,” the FSA said.

Pork slaughter plants were back in action yesterday but say they have suffered huge losses because of the public confusion over the crisis.

Hugh Hamill from Stevenson & Co Ltd in Co Antrim, said he had lost tens of thousands of pounds after losing a day-and-a-half’s work, as customers returned stock at the height of the crisis.

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said: “I would like consumers to have a clear message on behalf of the Executive — there is no risk from pork or pork products from pigs born and raised in the North and we look forward to having local pigmeat back on shelves and on tables this week.

“My officials also found a number of herds containing cattle had received and been fed product from the affected Southern supplier. Samples were taken of this product, where it was available, and are being tested as I speak. I anticipate the results later this week.”

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