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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 for some snippets!

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Slippin’ away!

Only 34 days to go, and the weather’s going to get colder!

A couple of interesting places to visit:

I was reading about Virginia Downs in the UK who has won a legal challenge against DEFRA regarding pesticides. What courage. Read about it here .

And a new online wine company based near us in Bandon; odd name, but Curious Wines have a good website.

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Euro-Toques School Food Workshops

All this week, a number of Euro-Toque Chefs are talking and demonstrating to school children in schools and in their restaurants around th and feel foode country about food, what it is, where it comes from, how important it is, how to taste, how to source local foods, how to take healthy fun lunches to school.

Today, Richy of Richy’s Bar & Bistro in Clonakilty, asked me to come along and talk about what we do here at Ummera. My audience was 35 or more 11 and 12 year olds from Clonakilty’s Gaelschoil. They were given and introduction by Richy followed by me rambling on about smoking foods. Then Richy organised a blind fold tasting of interesting and unusual foods, challenging the children to identify the food by feel, smell and taste. 

It was a fine effort by Richy and his team who have given over every morning this week to pass on to the children  his passion and knowledge of food; it is so important that children of today know about food and where it comes from.

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Terra Madre and Bacon & Eggs

 Seven days ago I had Bacon & Eggs for breakfast in Turin; not, I’m sure, a typical Italian way to start the day, but Gemma, who was amongst the 250 good citizens of Turin who accommodated some of the 7,000 delegates of Terra Madre over the three days from Thursday to Sunday, cooked up some of our Ummera Rashers with two Italian Eggs! An great way to begin the final day of Terra Madre and set me up for the next 36 hours without sleep.

I was going to have the Bacon & Eggs again today back at home, but we have no bacon left!

Between Babbington’s Tea Room on the Spanish Steps, Rome and The Winding Stair Restaurant in Dublin, we are cleaned out – although we have just finished curing and smoking more today so perhaps next Sunday!

Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto were, as in the past, awesome and inspring; I had intended to make a daily post from Turin, but I was so engrossed in all the activities, workshops, tastings that I felt that the time queueing to get Internet access, would be much better used in tasting another cheese, salami, pasta, etc etc…

So bits and pieces from Terra Madre will appear over the next few weeks!

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An Organic Food Valley….

At the National Organic Conference in Waterford last month it was suggested that we should change Bord Bia’s slogan from  “Ireland, The Food Island” to “Ireland, The Organic Isalnd“.

Perhaps slowly slowy might be the way and I see that the Drôme Valley in France is setting out to be an Organic Valley:

In a recently published interview in the Localtis magazine, Didier Jouve, Vice President of the Rhône-Alpes Côtes d’Azur region, reported on plans to set up a large-scale project for a “Drôme Organic Valley”. Jouve, who is responsible for regional planning and long-term development, emphasized the importance of organic agriculture, which already accounts for 25 % of the land in some areas.

Since the beginning of October, a French news information service has been on the Internet to supplement the services of the online magazines Bio-Markt.Info (German) and Organic-Market.Info (English). Bio-Marche.Info offers daily news information on organic agriculture and organic marketing in France.

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Terra Madre 2008 and Salone del Gusto

Bags almost packed and last minute bits and pieces sorted before heading out to Turin for my fourth visit to Salone del Gusto and third to Terra Madre

For anyone who has any interest in real food, this is one of the events that really inspires one to persevere with doing battle with the regulators, civil servants, bankers and all those who conspire to make the life of food producers hard! 

Go to the Salone dl Gusto and Terra Madre websites and see what’s going on. I believe that there will be live video feeds as well.

And remember to check in to Slow Food Ireland for local events here in Ireland, or Slow Food for international links.

If I can get to the Internet, I’ll attempt to keep these posts live whilst there.

Subscribe to our email updates or to our RSS Feed for the latest news from Italy!


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Budgetary Musings

The Irish Budget was announced with a “Patriotic” call on Tuesday. The following notes were jotted down that night and I know that this has little to do with food, but food is life so …….

I thought that the principal of the “offender pays” held good.

But not when it comes to financial catastrophes it appears.

The sad part of today’s budget is that it appears not to lay the cause of our problems at anyone’s feet.

But then who is to blame in reality?

Those who took advantage of the situation, worked within the laws of the land, created significant growth, and reaped the benefit? They forgot one basic principal that history reminds us of, you don’t build on sand, solid rock is best. Bubbles come and go of course, as this one will, and we hope that lessons have been learnt.

Who else could we blame?

The politicians are clearly liable as they ignored some pretty basic alarm bells; they saw growth, they saw employment, and being good politicians they encouraged builders and banks to borrow and build; but they failed of course to see ahead (or better still look backward at the past).

But we can’t really blame the politicians, can we?

After all we put them there in the first place!

But did we have a choice?

There lies the nub of the problem; not one of our political parties has the intelligence or conscience to run this country with sound humanitarian principals – but is there a country that does?

And that, I guess, is one of the conundrums of life!

But back to the budget……..

Sad that everyone should pay for the errors of the few

Sad that the poor and the elderly should pay for the wealthy and healthy

Sad that the Minister didn’t just introduce a 5% levy on all incomes over €100,000, rising by 5% for each and every €100,000 and a cap of 25% levy on all those over €500,000. After all, it’s those income levels which have been responsible for driving up prices, tempting banks to lend silly money on houses built on sand.

Perhaps the Minister could have just taxed the top 100 highest earners in Ireland to a level which would have brought their incomes down to €100,000, and thus saved the country!

Sad that the Minister didn’t make serious reductions in our bureaucracy that is strangling our community of just over 4 million people.

Oh well………

I think must be getting old – heading left or is it right!!!

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Kinsale Transition Town 50 Mile Meal Awards!

Congratulations to Pearse O’Sullivan and his crew at Toddies Restaurant for wining the 2008 Kinsale Transition Town award yesterday with their fantastic salad made from Tom The Veg’s Kinsale grown Beetroot, Pearse’s own Watercress and Ummera’s Smoked Eel.!

For some reason the mention of Smoked Eel as a dish has a strange reaction from many people, but Pearse’s recipe won over all the happy people on the Mad Hatter’s Tour on the Saturday.

The idea behind the competition during the Kinsale Gourment Festival is to inspire restaurants to source their products locally as much as possible. No plaice or sole from Iceland for example when superb locally caught fish IS available from fishermen landing in Kinsale.

The bad summer prevented a real coup – bananas grown in Co. Cork! This photograph was taken not 12 miles from Kinsale last Friday! But maybe next year……

Irish Bananas
Irish Bananas - Green of course!