Beef farms contaminated with toxic feed

Three Irish beef farms have been contaminated with a toxic substance which devastated the country's pig meat industry, food safety chiefs confirmed today.

But Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith insisted there was no public health concerns after tests were carried out on 11 herds believed to have been given an infected feed.

Three farms breached safe limits while a further eight have been given the all-clear.

The levels of dioxins found in the beef were two to three times above safe limits compared to 200 times for the pig meat which has devastated the pork sector.

Mr Smith said: "There is no public health concern.

"The results show that eight out of 11 herds are clear and three are above the proposed legislative limits.

"This would make the samples technically non-compliant but not at a level that would pose any public health concern."

The Department of Agriculture also stressed the relatively low numbers of beef slaughtered in the last three months that could have been infected by harmful dioxins.

Since 1 September only 3,000 cattle have been processed out of the yearly total of 1.5 million - 0.2 per cent of the annual figure.

Officials said 45 cattle herds had been placed under restriction, 34 were undergoing tests and the eight herds given the all-clear would go back into the food chain.