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Things are looking bad for the future of industrial food in Ireland as the Dawn Farm Foods story continues to develop. There have been 90 Salmonella cases reported so far in the UK and eight in Ireland. Salmonella is not usually fatal in the healthy, but a one-year old baby has also fallen ill with it and a woman in her 70s died in Liverpool with salmonella as a contributory factor. This looks like a particularly nasty strain of salmonella, it’s called salmonella agona and is rare, accounting for approximately 1.5% of salmonella infections. There are about 12,500 cases of salmonella reported annually in the UK. It looks like the contaminated meat was used for sandwich fillings supplied to the Subway chain but it doesn’t stop there. According to the FSAI the product has also entered the retail chain via Kerry Foods (as a sandwich filler).

This is a terrifying development for a company that exports more than 80% of its output to 30 countries worldwide. It is terrifying also for the 500 or so employees who must be worried about whether the company can survive this blow. It is terrifying also for the food scientists – this is a state of the art plant in which an additional €28M was invested in 2006.

Chase the bugs

Dawn's Food Map: Chase the bugs

The question has to be asked as to whether science really is invincible in the face of the complexities presented by such a complex distribution chain, bacon zipping here there and everywhere (see picture), getting chopped, mixed with cheese  and being heated more than once. Are there any natural limits to safety imposed by distance, scale and the number of parties in the distribution chain? Questions also have to be asked about the quality of the independent lab inspections in this case: Dawn Farm Foods has said that food safety is its foremost concern and that it has an excellent track record throughout its 25 years in operation. “All of the company’s products are tested prior to release to the market,” a spokeswoman said. “Rigorous externally-run tests and regular audits are also conducted to ensure that its products meet the highest standards as required by customers, the Department of Agriculture and Food Safety Authorities both in Ireland and the UK.” With all this testing, how did this happen?

But above all questions have to be asked about food policy in Ireland – as a nation are we really aiming to be a low-cost ingredients supplier? Are we the back-end of the Fast Food Nation? This story hurts the image of Irish food around the world. So much investment in education, capital, research and mointoring has been poured into developing the industrial food sector in Ireland, but is it working?

For more on the story see here and here

Check out this post by Good Food Hunting on another current meat scare, this time in the US. And have a look at this site if you’re in the mood for a fright – http://foodsafetychat.blogspot.com

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