Blog: Dean BestWhy China should take a leaf from Ireland's book

Dean Best | 15 December 2008

Last week was a rollercoaster ride for the Irish food industry, which started what looked to be a disastrous week with a mass recall of all products containing Irish pork over fears of dioxin contamination.

The huge decision to recall all Irish reared and slaughtered pork, when only 10% of it was produced at farms supplied with feed contaminated with cancer-causing dioxins, initially drew criticism from labour unions and primary pork producers, who feared mass redundancies and economic losses.

However, less than a week on and it seems that the move to go public, warning consumers of a potential problem and taking the steps necessary to ensure consumer safety, could actually reap dividends in terms of consumer confidence.

Irish pork is back on the shelves - including the 90% of unaffected pork slaughtered and processed during the 90-day contamination period.

While the episode is certain to have a cost, it has also shown that the Irish food industry is on the ball when it comes to food safety and will act promptly to ensure consumer safety, even when it carries a serious price tag.

The way that Irish food safety authorities detected the problem, recalled the product, traced the contaminated feed and restricted farms that were supplied with it, was proof that the country has a well-functioning safety regime.

As Kerry Foods told just-food last week: "It has been prudent of the authorities to take the action they have done because Ireland enjoys a reputation for good quality internationally."

While consumers may have initially been alarmed, the efficient and effective way that the issue was handled has served to reassure many of the safety of Irish food.

The situation contrasts strongly with the recent melamine scare in China and, as just-food learnt last week, the Chinese food industry has seen exports plummet because the safety of the entire industry has been drawn into question.

If the Irish authorities had lacked the competency and systems to account for all contaminated pig meat and feed, then the country's pork sector - and indeed its entire food industry - could have been facing a meltdown.


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