Food and diet

Pork contamination Q&A

Several newspapers have today reported that the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised the public to avoid eating pork products from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland.

This is because some Irish pork meat has been found to contains dioxins, a type of chemical associated with health problems. The Irish government has since recalled all Irish pork. Some UK supermarkets are also withdrawing stock products containing Irish pork.

The FSA said, “From the information we have at this time, we do not believe there is a significant risk to UK consumers”. It continues to monitor the situation.

This recall is a precautionary measure as the levels of dioxins found in this case are relatively low, and dioxins are only known to pose a risk with long-term exposure at high levels.

What is the problem?

The Irish government found through standard testing that some pork products were contaminated with dioxins, a chemical associated with health problems. As a precautionary measure it has have recalled all Irish pork products.

A range of pork products such as ham, bacon, sausage and salami may contain the contaminated meat. Products such as ready meals or pizzas that contain pork may also be affected.

The source of the contamination appears to be pigs that were given animal feed containing dioxins.

What should I do now?

Consumers should check labels and avoid pork products from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland. The recall applies to foodstuffs produced from September 2008 onwards.

If the package labelling is unclear, the shop where the product was bought may be able to offer specific advice, and may offer a refund on any affected products.

It is advisable not to eat any pork products from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland if you are unsure about them.

I may have eaten Irish pork recently. What should I do?

There is no need to be alarmed or seek medical advice as the FSA has said that they do not believe there is a significant risk to UK consumers.

To cause any health problems you would need to be exposed to high levels of dioxins over a long period of time. The contaminated pork products contain relatively low levels of dioxins, and have only been produced from September 2008.

In addition, only a fraction of pork sold in the UK comes from Ireland and it is thought that, in total, only 56 Irish farms have used the contaminated animal feed. The total recall of Irish pork is a precautionary measure.

Where do I go for further advice?

The FSA is continuing to monitor the situation. Visit the website at for updated information.

NHS Attribution