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Incineration - How it effects food producers

Ireland's reputation as a food producer is highly important to its economy. Would you want to destroy this?

"There is clearly a problem with animals reared close to .... waste disposal incinerators:"
EU Commissioner for Food safety, David Byrne,1999

"Ireland is known as the food island. We must not just trade on that image but deliver on it"
Darina Allen

Ireland’s current reputation as a food producer
Food production is highly important to Ireland’s economy. We have a reputation for home produced, natural, fresh foodstuffs. There is no doubt that we fill a niche in this market.

Also we have an important beef and dairy industry. The fact that we have the lowest levels of dioxin in Europe undoubtedly gives us an advantage over other European countries.

How incineration can affect our reputation
The EPA plans to licence two incinerators in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork: one for hazardous waste and one for municipal waste.

Toxins from incineration (carcinogenic dioxins being the most well known) enter the food chain with ease. Foods which tend to have the highest dioxin levels include dairy products, meat and poultry, eggs, fish and animal fats.

Polluted food will seriously affect our health, particularly our children’s health, as they are 25 times more vulnerable to the emissions than adults.

At the moment Ireland produces some of the least polluted food in the world. Do we want to lose out on this advantage to rival countries, such as New Zealand, who have adopted alternative waste management strategies?

Why should the Ringaskiddy incinerators operate for Belgian profit, while local communities and local businesses pay with their health, their environment, their wasted raw materials and, in a big way, with their purses.

Medical evidence
We heard recently from a renowned paediatrician, Dr. Gavin ten Tusscher, that they are finding a whole range of health problems among children raised in the vicinity of incinerators, children they have been monitoring from before birth. What is highly significant in their findings is that these children were brought up around incinerators run at or below permitted emission levels.

This is not unexpected when we know that emission levels are set from desktop studies into the effects of these chemicals on an adult male. No one considers the most vulnerable in our societies nor the long term effect on future generations.

Alternatives for dealing with animal and food waste
We find it totally incomprehensible that anyone should opt for incineration technology when there are much newer and safer technologies available. Of special significance to agriculture is the use of Alkaline Hydrolysis and Anaerobic Digestion.

  • Alkaline Hydrolysis: Meat and bonemeal waste is costing millions in storage and disposal overseas. The alternative to incinerating this waste is a process called Alkaline Hydrolysis. This is most effective for bovine waste - that is, meat and bonemeal and animal by-products. Because the process hydrolyses proteins, BSE-infected material and any infectious material( i.e prions), can also be safely degraded. By-products are biodegradable. This treatment can also be coupled to an Anaerobic Digester.

  • Centralised Anaerobic Digestion: This is a mature technology implemented in Sweden, Denmark, Italy, etc. Benefits include the production of a biogas to be used for a Combined Heat and Power plant, liquid fertilizer and a fibre compost material. As well as managing farm wastes, CAD can process all sludges, abattoir waste and bio-wastes which cannot be composted. Alkaline hydrolysis is the preferred method of disposal by veterinary colleges in the UK and USA.
    In a recent report "Anaerobic Digestion: Benefits for Waste Management, Agriculture, Energy and the Environment," the EPA have declared this technology a win-win solution for farming, our Kyoto targets and the environment.

Examples of contamination from incinerators

Cluny, France
Municiple incinerator closed down due to the contamination of goat grazing areas by dioxin emissions from the incinerator. Cheese found to have dioxin levels in excess of French and EU safety limits.

Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
Halton Flour Mill and Dover Flour both threatened to discontinue purchasing wheat in the area if a planned hazardous waste incinerator went ahead.

Hull, UK
Cadbury UK have stated in writing that they will not purchase cocoa from a cocoa mill next to a proposed incinerator.

Cattle in Italy
In July 2003 police in the region of Naples seized hundreds of head of cattle from 7 different herds after tests showed abnormally high levels of dioxin in both the animals and the soil. This area is known for its production of milk products, including mozzarella cheese. This brought the total number of animals removed from farms, since March, to 10,000. There was an illegal plastics incinerator plant operating in the area near the polluted land.

Belgian 'dioxin crisis' 1999

The Belgium ‘dioxin crisis’ of 1999 provides a salutary lesson. The Belgian food industry was badly damaged when high levels of dioxin were discovered in eggs and chickens and traced back to dioxin contaminated animal feed. Import bans by countries worldwide included chicken, eggs,
meat, and any products containing eggs or milk. The Belgian government estimated the cost of the crisis at €465 million.

"Six years ago, during the Belgian dioxin crisis, I was stationed at Felixstowe border inspection post as an official veterinary inspector. A blanket ban had been placed on the importation of foodstuffs from Belgium because of feared dioxin contamination. This crisis cost the Belgian economy millions of pounds as well as a major loss in consumer confidence ...."
PATRICK McGINNITY, MVB, MRCVS, Keady, Co Armagh (Letter to Irish Times - 19-12-05)

Dioxin scare 2004

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 5, 2004 - Fear of dioxin contamination in European foods spread today on reports that Dutch potato by-products tainted with the cancer causing chemical had been sold to farmers in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

More than 160 farms have been closed in the Netherlands and Belgium after dioxin was found in dairy products. All of those farms reportedly had received shipments of animal feed which contained potato by-products from Canadian frozen potato chip fries manufacturer McCain that were contaminated with dioxin. Read more.

Dioxin scare - February 2006

China and Taiwan ban pork from three European countries over dioxin scare.
Channel News Asia   Reuters

Food Chain

Fallout zone



Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email -
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