Slurry from Pig Farms in Dioxin Scare to be Used

IRELAND - An estimated one million litres of pig slurry from the 10 pig farms hit by the dioxin contamination crisis in December, will be spread on tillage land and not land used for grazing animals.
calendar icon 20 February 2009
clock icon 4 minute read reports that the Department of Agriculture announced it had given the go-ahead to the pig farmers to dispose of the slurry which has been held on the farms since the crisis broke on December 7th.

The decision was taken following consultations between the department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the European Commission, said a spokeswoman.

She said the farmers involved had been told of the decision which related only to slurry which was produced by the pigs involved.

No decision has been taken yet about the spreading of manure from the dozen or more cattle farms which were also shut down because of the scare.

The EPA had originally raised concerns about the possible contamination of land from slurry produced from the animals which had ingested dioxin-laden feed from the Millstream Recycling Plant in Co Carlow in the period 1 September to 7 December.

It had sought tests on the manure which had been building up on the farms where the animals were being kept in quarantine awaiting slaughter and destruction. The EPA had insisted the slurry being generated on the farms be kept in separate holding tanks on the pig farms.

Following consultations with all the parties, agreement was reached that the slurry was safe and represented no threat to public health when disposed of in the manner specified.

There were concerns too at the department about the disposal of the waste, because spreading it on land, especially land used for milk production, could have widened the dioxin problems.

Dioxin levels are easiest to detect in dairy products and even very low traces of contamination can be readily picked up by those testing for contamination in food.

The slurry has been building up since the beginning of December and continued until now because the slaughter and destruction of the animals exposed to the feed, has only just been completed.

More than 130,000 pigs and over 2,000 cattle had to be slaughtered and their carcasses destroyed because of the scare caused by the dioxin contamination.

The crisis will cost taxpayers at least €150 million by way of compensation to both processors and producers and has caused continuing damage to the Irish pig industry which exported €368 million worth of product to 40 countries in 2007.

Retail sales of pork, bacon and sausages in Ireland were valued at €425 million in 2007.

Over 2,000 workers are employed directly in the processing sector and a further 4,000 in ancillary jobs. Ireland has an estimated 400 pig producers.

The joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Food, which has been holding an investigation into the dioxin crisis, is expected to have its report ready within a fortnight.

The committee heard evidence from over 40 witnesses from the industry on the circumstances which led to the total recall of Irish pork products.

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