EU scientists say that the risk to human health from eating Irish pork contaminated with dioxins is negligible.

The European Food Safety Authority was asked on Monday (8 December) to provide “urgent scientific and technical assistance” after the discovery of dioxin contamination in some Irish pork.

In a report published on Wednesday (10 December), EFSA concludes that: “If someone ate an average amount of Irish pork each day throughout the period of the incident (90 days), 10% of which was contaminated at the highest recorded concentration of dioxins, the body burden would increase by approximately 10%.”

EFSA considers this increase to be “of no concern for this single event”.

“But if someone ate a large amount of Irish pork throughout the period of the incident, 100% of which was contaminated, the safety margin embedded in the tolerable weekly intake would be considerably undermined,” it added.

But EFSA considers this extremely unlikely and, given that the tolerable weekly intake has a tenfold safety margin, it would not necessarily lead to adverse health effects.

EFSA based its statement on the assumption that exposure at these high levels only began in September 2008 and that effective measures have now been taken to remove contaminated Irish pork and pork products.

“The levels of dioxins in pork and pork products will depend on the fat content, because dioxins accumulate in the fat,” it said. “The longer the exposure and the higher the fat content, the more dioxins accumulate and stay in the animal’s body.

“In humans, once exposure ends, the body burden begins to decrease.”