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Monday 21st May 2018

The Irish pork scare

9th December 2008

Countryside writer Graham Harvey looks at the Irish pork scare and the cost to the consumer of industrial farming.


The scare over dioxin-contaminated pork has a “wearying familiarity” about it.

There’s the supermarket shelf clearance, experts offering reassuring messages, investigations by food safety agencies and scare stories about the effects of whatever the poison happens to be.

Farmers and food processors then join the fray to try to calm things down and amid this is the suggestion that contamination is down to foreign foods.

That is, of course, nonsense.

In terms of safety, it’s not where the food is produced but how. With our present large-scale, centralised, industrial production systems, food scares are inevitable.

It is in our industrial food systems that the problem lies. Pigs are crowded into sheds and fed formulated rations of grains and food by-products.

There has been speculation in the Irish pork scare that it was feed contaminated with fuel that may have caused the problem but tracing such contamination is a nightmare.

Industrial foods will inevitably get a pollutant at some stage, so the only way to avoid this is raise your pigs on grass.

This does not have to be an expensive exercise and when consumers buy this sort of meat direct from a farm they can get it for a similar price to that which they would pay in a supermarket.

Industrial foods were supposed to deliver cheap food but they don’t, “especially when the cost of food scares is factored in.”


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