Irish fret over favorite food after pork scare

Mon Dec 8, 2008 5:00pm EST
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By Jonathan Saul

DUBLIN (Reuters) - People in Ireland are having doubts about the traditional bacon and sausage fry-up after a contamination scare sparked an international recall of Irish pork products.

"I do feel worried and it will take a lot to convince me pork is safe after this," said Sinead O'Rourke, a mother of three, as she shopped for groceries at a supermarket in Dublin on Monday.

The Irish government has ordered all domestic pork products out of shops and restaurants after animal feed was found to be contaminated with dioxin, which can cause cancer, in 19 pig farms in Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

While farmers face a financial crisis, Irish consumers are substituting chicken and beef for their usual ham sandwiches and butchers are fretting about the impact on the upcoming Christmas trade.

"It could not have happened at a worse time," said Darragh Buckley, manager of a butcher's shop close to Dublin's bustling O'Connell Street.

In the five-star Shelbourne Hotel, afternoon tea was being served with parma ham sandwiches instead of the usual baked ham from Co. Limerick and the morning breakfast bacon was from Denmark.

Although the risk to public health is considered extremely low, the pork industry's reputation has taken a beating.

"Consumer confidence in the quality and safety of the victuals being offered for sale can make or break an industry," wrote the Irish Times in an editorial.   Continued...

<p>A notice explaining the removal of pork produced from the North and South of Ireland is seen in front of empty shelves in a supermarket in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland December 8, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Paton</p>