Following the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s warning on Saturday about possible dioxin contamination in pork, the UK’s Food Standards Agency published a statement on the same subject today:
STATEMENT ON IRISH PORK
The Food Standards Agency is today advising consumers not to eat pork or pork products, such as sausages, bacon, salami and ham, which are labelled as being from the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland, while it continues to investigate whether any products contaminated with dioxins have been distributed in the UK.
Prudent advice, on the face of it. Or so you might think. Then why did it apparently take so long for the FSA to react to the FSAI’s announcement?
A cynic might think that FSA staff couldn’t be bothered coming into work over the weekend to issue a considered response. You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment. (Remember Francis Urquhart in House of Cards? 😈 )
An almost equally cynical thought crossed my mind. Perhaps the FSA were prevailed upon by their Irish colleagues to keep schtum over the weekend rather than to provoke a panic dumping of Irish pork? That seems unlikely, though – can you imagine the furore if it ever got out that a body set up to protect UK consumers had abdicated that responsibility to spare the blushes of another country’s farmers?
Seductive though these theories are, the most likely explanation seems to me that the risk wasn’t deemed sufficiently high to make a fuss about over the weekend. Although a large proportion of Irish pork exports go to the UK, they form a relatively small share of the UK’s pork imports – perhaps 7% at most. And apparently you have to eat massive amounts of the chemical for it to have any effect.
That being the case, I suppose it’s reasonable if FSA staffers decided that no-one was likely to die on account of an extra couple of fragments of ham on their pizza. A bit unsettling all the same, though.