Ireland to seek EU help over pork cancer scare

10th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Pig farmers and pork processors say thousands of jobs are at risk.

DUBLIN - Ireland will seek EU cash to help bail out its meat industry after a cancer-linked pork scare, which is adding to the already recession-hit country's woes, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said Tuesday.

Pig farmers and pork processors say thousands of jobs are at risk, and are pressing the government to come up with a financial rescue package to help the vital agricultural sector.

"Obviously we will have to look to the European Union in respect of some co-funding or full funding," said Cowen, who is already facing tough talks at an EU summit in Brussels this week.

Irish Farmers' Association head Padraig Walshe said talks were focused on estimating the value of contaminated herds - estimated to involve 100,000 pigs - and pork products already in processing plants when it was recalled.

"The priority of everybody involved here has to be to get the show up and going again. The losses will be minimised if we can get the product back out there (to consumers)," he told RTE state radio.

Cormac Healy, director of the Irish Association of Pig Meat Processors, said the industry estimated the immediate cost of "getting up and running" at over 150 million euros (193 million dollars).

Ireland sounded the alarm on Saturday, recalling all pork products made since September 1 after dioxins, which in high doses can cause cancer, were found in slaughtered pigs thought to have eaten tainted feed.

Officials sought to play down the health risk, saying that data from past dioxin scares in Belgium and Italy showed the chances of someone becoming ill, even after being exposed to a lot of contaminated meat, were "very low".

But the recall has caused panic in Ireland at a time when many families would have been buying their traditional Christmas ham, and deals another blow to the recession-hit Irish economy.

Ireland is a big exporter of pig meat with the European Commission saying 12 EU member states - and nine other countries around the world including Japan and South Korea - might have received contaminated meat.

Cowen is set to attend an EU summit in Brussels Thursday and Friday grappling with what to do after Irish voters rejected the EU's new treaty in a June referendum, throwing the 27-nation bloc into institutional limbo.


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