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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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Smoked Salmon and Onion Scones

Last December I went to Amsterdam as part of a Good Food IrelandFailte Ireland promotion with other members of Good Food Ireland.

Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School was there and she made these wonderful Onion Scones and filled them with our Smoked Organic Salmon.

Here’s the recipe she sent me:

Ballyknocken Onion Scones

2 tbsp butter / olive oil (for frying)
1/2 large Spanish onion (or 2 medium onions), finely chopped
2 tbsp leek, finely sliced
225g / 8 oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp / 2 ½ ml bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp / 2 ½ ml salt
1 tbsp / 15 ml sugar
50g / 2 oz butter, cold, cut into pieces
40g / 1 ¾ oz grated Parmesan
200g / 7 oz natural yogurt

Preheat the oven to 250?C / 400?F / Gas 6

Heat the butter / olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned. Remove the onion to a small bowl and cook the leek for 5 minutes without browning. Add to the onion.

Sieve together into a large bowl the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Transfer to a food processor and add the butter. Run the motor for 3 – 4 seconds (or blend the butter by hand until the mixture resembles oatmeal). Transfer back to the bowl and stir in the onion and leek mixture together with the cheese. Mix in the yogurt but keep a little back and only add it if the mixture is very dry – the dough should be a bit sticky but not wet. Transfer to a floured surface and lightly knead for a few seconds. Pat it out until it is about 2 ½ cm / 1 inch thick. Using a pastry cutter cut out 5 cm / 2 inch rounds and place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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How can it be farmed and wild at the same time?

It appears that in Ireland it can be.

Three days of Court cases as reported by the Irish Times:

Friday March 20th
Fish supplier guilty of breaching legislation

Tuesday March 24th
‘Wild’ salmon sold at Wrights was farmed, court told

Wednesday March 25th
Charges against Wrights of Howth are dismissed

The final report from the Irish Times quotes:

Judge Ann Watkin said she was satisfied Wrights of Howth, Galway Ltd, had offered for sale packets of salmon labelled “Irish smoked wild salmon” at Dublin airport in April 2007 which contained salmon that had been bred and raised in cages to the point of harvesting and had been owned by someone.

“However, I am not satisfied I have sufficient evidence in this case that the salmon was farmed within the meaning of the Act.”

She said because the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) had, in its charge against Wrights of Howth and two of its directors, specified the salmon had been “in fact farmed…they must prove it was farmed within the definition of the Act”.

Referring to European Council Regulation 1198/2006 on the European Fishery Fund, she said the FSAI had not proved salmon bred and grown “generally” in Irish “fish farms” were cultivated using techniques that would identify them as “farms” under the terms of the regulation.

Fish farming, or aquaculture, in the regulation is defined as “the rearing or cultivation of aquatic organisms using techniques designed to increase the production of the organisms beyond the natural capacity of the environment”.

She said she was “impressed” by the FSAI’s argument that according to Irish regulations salmon for sale must be identified as having been caught at sea, in an inland waterway or farmed, and that the salmon in the packets seized at the airport in April 2007 was caught neither at sea nor inland. She said this was a “very compelling argument”.

Is this a case where the “Law is an A***” or ………?

Please read these reports and do put a comment below to help us understand the significance of the Judge’s decision.

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Tears for a whale

I am not sure why but I was just a bit reluctant to go and look at today’s news story here in West Cork – a fin whale washed up on this morning’s high tide in Courtmacsherry Bay. But they are very special creatures and it would be something awesome for future memories.

Why the fin whale came into the bay and why he died will be discussed many times over the coming weeks in the houses and bars surrounding the bay, from the Pink Elephant to Courtmacsherry Hotel and all the bars in-between!

A Sad End
A Sad End


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Great marketing – yes!

On December 1st last, we commenced dealing with UPS as our preferred courier for shipping our smoked salmon around the world. It is hard to change suppliers, especially days before our really busy time began, but the price difference between our existing courier and UPS was too great for us to ignore; our customers were delighted with the savings which we passed on in full.

Fortunately, the service worked exceptionally well with only a couple of problems which are, however much one tries, inevitable.

Well, one month on, and UPS and ourselves are still on good terms; I even received a card in the post from them last week. Very clever card…. as the pictures above and below show! 

I was impressed at least – and as the customer that’t what counts! I think that Seth Godin would also be impressed!

Thanks Tom, Kevin, Billy, Pat, John and Dennis for a providing a service that did what it said it would do!


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Release all pork products NOW.

The following Press Release clearly confirms that there is NO risk to your health from eating Irish pork products now, in the past or in the future.

Let the authorities lift their ban on the sale of all pork, both recalled and in process.

There is NO justification whatsoever for continuing this disasterous state of affairs.  

Even if the pork comes from pigs which have been fed on the feed from the Carlow Mills, that too should be available for sale. There is a very very low level of risk but only  if you eat pork three times a day, seven days a week.

European Food Safety Authority Reaffirms FSAI Scientific Risk Assessment on Irish Pork

10 December 2008


Confirmation of a low level of risk associated with the consumption of Irish pork potentially containing the level of dioxins identified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reaffirms the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) risk assessment earlier this week. EFSA stated today that there is no concern for consumers based on the assumption of exposure over the period of time identified and that effective measures have been taken to remove excessive exposure from Irish pork and pork products. The EFSA Opinion supports the risk management decision to recall all Irish pork and bacon products, thus reducing the time of exposure to potentially contaminated product.

The European Commission requested EFSA to carry out a scientific risk assessment for human health related to the possible presence of dioxins in pork and pork products and its findings corroborate the FSAI’s opinion based on its own risk assessment issued on Sunday night.

The FSAI is reviewing the EFSA risk assessment on composite products containing low levels of pork and is of the view that these pose minimal risk to consumer health.

According to Mr Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, EFSA’s Opinion provides another reassurance to consumers that there is no cause for concern and any risk to health is extremely low for consumers. He reiterated that the product recall was taken as a precautionary measure to protect consumer health from products containing an illegal amount of dioxins.

EFSA’s Opinion can be found on

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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 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.