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Where DOES our pork come from?

There was an article last Saturday in the UK’s Mail Online about how UK Supermarkets and food outlets have come together to create a voluntary code on the labeling of pork products in respect of country of origin. (Read it here)

Since Ireland’s Pork Fiasco in December 2008 there have been noises made about exactly where our Pork comes from. There are now Assurance Schemes which help to reassure us that those particular products are Irish, but there is nothing in place to show where pork products NOT bearing these schemes labels come from.

Are we to assume that all products NOT carrying these labels are therefore NOT Irish grown pork?

The pork that we cure and smoke is Irish; what’s more we can trace our pork back to the farm where it was grown, back to Martin O’Donovan in Timoleague for instance, which is much more than most suppliers of bacon or pork can do.

But we aren’t part of Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Scheme, so don’t assume that if it doesn’t have the Q.A. stamp on it that it’s not Irish.

The need for clear Country of Origin labeling is obvious.

Yesterday, Ummera had a Twitter conversation/debate with Bord Bia over the question of traceability.

Thought you might be interested in it:

ummera: Supermarkets in UK agree to reveal the REAL origins of their pork products;@BordBia @GoodFoodIreland and here?http://ow.ly/1axCh9:56am, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera Food products, especially meat with our Quality Assurance Scheme logo on it is produced in Ireland and fully traceable.10:01am, Feb 24 from TweetDeck

ummera: @Bordbia And Pork? Farm to fork? Not yet by any means.10:39am, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera & Pork. Bord Bia Quality Mark assures consumers with fully traceable & origin Ireland product, processors/farmers all audited.1:36pm, Feb 24 from Web

ummera: @Bordbia Quality Mark excellent, but it is all the rest that aren’t covered. Shouldn’t there be traceability Farm to Fork on ALL products?2:30pm, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera That’s why it’s important to look for the Quality Assurance Mark on products.http://bit.ly/cg01qw2:58pm, Feb 24 from TweetDeck

ummera: @Bordbia Indeed; but do you think that supermarkets, & retail outlets here could agree a voluntary code for all pork products as in the UK?3:31pm, Feb 24 from HootSuite

Bordbia: @ummera Not sure how valid the policing of a “voluntary” scheme is. Bord Bia Quality Assurance marks offers validity with audit process. 4:12pm, Feb 24 from Web

All we really want to know is where our food comes from: what country, and if Irish what farmer and where?

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Pork Fudge

The Report on the Contamination of Irish Pork Products by the Irish Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food fails to find an answer to one intriguing question and struggles over the “proportionality of the response” issue.

Just how did the animal feed get contaminated? The Committee says:

“In this instance, the source of the contamination was contaminated oil operating a burner being used to dry bread prior to its inclusion in animal feed. In a way that is not at all clear to the Committee, exhaust fumes from the oil were allowed to blow over the feed material and thereby contaminate it with dioxin.”

It would appear that no one thought that contamination could be caused by this, and as such was never considered in any food safety issues at the plant where it occurred. The fact that inspections were a little erratic probably had little effect.

On the question of  “The proportionality of the response in dealing with the contamination incident”  the Committee found that in balance the FSAI acted correctly, given the inadequacies of the traceability system in place. They had little option but to say this, although they do raise the question as to why no other country put a recall in place and why, when high levels of PCB’s were reported in September and October in three other EU countries , was there no action taken before the FSAI took the “nuclear” option.

The report does highlight the plight of the artisan producers who could provide full traceability and who felt strongly that the total recall was unnecessary. Sadly it was an “all or nothing” choice and the Committee accepts that the traceability problems with respect to pork meant the recall was the best available option.”

The challenge of traceability within the pork industry is discussed and clearly this must be addressed in the near future. The processors do have challenges, but with the larger cuts of pork, legs, hams, and bacon full traceabilitycan be implemented quite easily; it is the meat used for sausages, salamis, pates etc that give the real problem. But other countries have solved it so ………

We have commented on these pages about the problem as it unfurled  (click on the Pork under  Categories on the right hand side for all our posts on this subject), and there is little in the report which is makes us want to change our comments.

The report can be downloaded from this link .    Be warned, although it is only 33 pages, it is 18 MB in size!

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Bacon Saga Update……

We could get some of our bacon out today, or at least cleared today, but the Pork processors are playing brinkmanship with compensation talks with the Government.

Clearly, the processors feel that as they have lost significant export markets, and its now too late to attempt to get them back for the peak Christmas sales period,  that they are hanging in for the maximum they can get. Their workforces have been laid off or are on protective notice.

Sadly, the small added value processors, like ourselves, won’t see a slice of this compensation package and there are several (maybe many) who rely on pork products for their living who may not come out of this debacle.

Ivan Yates has been pretty critical of the post recall handling, and I think that the Government needs to show who s running the country again – having damaged it initially, they must do something right sometime, surely! Government must get product moving today and order the processors to release information.

And the Vets must be allowed to get the information from the slaughterhouses and processors to clear product NOW.

Tomorrow will be too late for some…..

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The Great Irish Pork Recall

All of us who are involved in the farming, processing, curing, smoking, selling and eating pork in its many shapes and forms have been appalled by the events which have unfurled over the last 24 hours or so.

A total recall nationwide, indeed world wide, of Irish Pork products is a shattering blow to all who have enthused about the quality of our meat in Ireland. 

Plenty of detail can be found on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s website and they have attempted to justify the TOTAL recall of all Irish pork products produced since September 1st. The effects of PCB Dioxins in the food chain are clearly known and any dioxin should be carefully monitored and avoided of course. However it is the extraordinary haste and severity of the FSAI’s action which has stung producers.

Had the FSAI delayed their announcement for a couple of additional days, they could have established just what products were contaminated and the withdrawal of products could have been done in accordance to the traceability procedures which are now compulsory. The additional couple of days “exposure” to these dioxins would not have had any significant effect. Indeed the FSAI website says:

The FSAI reiterates its advice to consumers not to consume any Irish pork or bacon products. However, it stresses that people should not be alarmed or concerned in relation to the potential risks from dioxin’s found in pork products. A short term peak exposure to dioxins and PCBs does not result in adverse health effects. 

The nature of the total recall appears to negate the necessity for the massive amount of work which food producers have to do to comply with to ensure the traceability  principals of “one step forward, one step back” or “from farm to fork”.

One problem is the vanishing of small local slaughterhouses in Ireland (see Ivan McCutcheons outstanding blog on Local Abattoirs: What’s at Steak from mid November). Now with a few slaughterhouses killing pigs and  cattle from many different farms on the same day, traceability back to the individual farm is very difficult. But we know where our smoked chickens are grown, and we state the name of the farmer on the label; we know where the beef in the shops come from as the label says so too; but pigs….. why not pigs?

Ireland has a reputation for having one of the most stringent regimes in the world when it comes to implementing food safety procedures; there are good reasons why this is should be so, but let us have some reality in the implementation a recall that is far too sweeping, too premature and far too damaging to our very very fragile economy.

It is with much regret that we have taken our Smoked Dry Cured Bacon off our website for the moment. We  have contacted all who have purchased our bacon, both shops and individuals, since September 1st in accordance to the requirements of the FSAI.

We hope that we will have our bacon avaiable again in a couple of days; you will have to watch this space! Better still sign up for email updates in the box on the right hand side of this page.

I can recommend you to look at Conor’s Bandon Blog for some great comments! If your a twitter (and better still if you are not) then go to www.twitter.com/ummera for some snippets!