Irish beef contaminated with illegal levels of dioxins has made its way into stores and kitchens in Britain, it was revealed yesterday.
The revelation follows test results confirming that beef from animals on 21 cattle farms in the Irish Republic was contaminated.
The tests were carried out following concerns that an earlier contamination of pork products from farms in Ireland could also have involved Irish beef.
Tests on Irish pork found dioxin contamination at 80-200 times the legally permitted level.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said yesterday that the level of dioxin found in four beef examples was actually higher than the figure seen in pork.
Irish authorities have ordered the destruction of hundreds of cattle on the 21 beef farms. Beef produced from these farms is also being destroyed.
However, it has emerged that some meat from these farms has already reached consumers in the UK.
Despite the revelation, the UK's Food Standards Agency said there is no recall of the beef and it takes the view there is no risk to the public from eating the meat.
A spokesman said: 'The number of animals affected in this incident represents less than 1 per cent of the Republic of Ireland's national herd.
'The majority of the meat from these animals has been held but a small amount of affected meat may have entered the UK food chain.
'This meat is likely to have reached consumers but the risk to human health from consuming this is very low.'
Studies suggest that only high-level exposure to dioxins over many years can increase the risk of cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems.
Ireland's food safety authority said that while the dioxin levels were higher than pork, the fact people eat less beef means that the likely level of exposure for a consumer would be much lower.
The Irish authorities are desperate to avoid beef being tainted because the trade is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy.