Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dioxin Contaminated Irish Pork: An Al-Qaeda Attack?

No terrorist organization had claimed responsibility yet, but pork products seem like a very inviting “soft” target for a terrorist attack. Will there be a “Happy Christmas” for this year?

By: Vanessa Uy

If – hypothetically speaking – I was an al-Qaeda operative, attacking one of the most “holy” symbols of Christendom and Christmas, like pork and pork products, could probably produce the most “psychologically paralyzing” damage to the West. Though the current dioxin-contaminated Irish pork is yet to be linked to an attack by an established terrorist group, the incident is by no means still “relegateable” to every major newspaper’s “page 23” spot. Especially when / if the “alleged” attack happens this time of year.

Back in the days when “Ike” was still the President of the United States, Santa Claus was often portrayed unabashedly feasting on a piece of ham intended for a dozen people by himself. Often with strips of bacon on the side, a symbol often hijacked by meat / pork producers portraying Santa’s “corpulence” as being healthy, often to usher in the Christmas / Holiday Season. So, other than the Nativity Scene, Santa Claus, and the Christmas Tree, ham and other pork products are not only post WWII symbols of the Christmas Season, but also – if you will – of post 9 / 11 Christendom.

Dioxin is a carcinogenic and a teratogenic (can affect developing human fetuses) chemical that can be created in our contemporary urban lifestyle via burning unsorted garbage, especially if those garbage / municipal waste is a heterogeneous mix of paper and an organic halide-based plastic like polyvinyl chloride. This method of “making” dioxin is the number one reason of how groundwater tables near major metropolitan areas are contaminated by dioxin via mismanaged municipal waste landfills.

The other one where dioxin can be “accidentally” produced is by faulty and hasty industrial processing of crude oil sourced products. Like the Agent Orange defoliants used in Operation Ranch Hand during the Vietnam War. Or in today’s Irish pork scare, the dioxin-contaminated lubricant used in the machinery that grinds up swine feed. Even some pork samples produced in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland test positive for PCB s.

The dioxin levels found on suspect Irish pork products contain on average 80 to 200 times above the minimum safe limit established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and its EU counterparts. Given that when it comes to the risk assessment of absolute minimum levels of dioxin in food products deemed fit for human consumption can readily become a “political” issue since there are still no binding limits set on “absolutely” save dioxin levels. But everyone of us alredy knows by now that threat assessment / risk assessment studies have already become a political issue in our post 9 / 11 world.

Given that the coming Holiday Season is very dependent on pork and pork products. The worldwide supermarket recall of Irish pork products manufactured during the month of September this year and onwards spells disaster. Not only for pork aficionados, but also for Irish pig farmers as well. Vegetarianism or being vegan might be good for one’s body and for planet Earth’s environment. But an overwhelmingly large number of us won’t be having a joyous Christmas Season without pork.