Document Directory

20 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Herds of wild boar blamed for swine fever outbreak
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pigs' appetite loss is farmers' great fear
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever may have spread to 36 farms
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pigs 'infected by wild boar'
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever outbreak is contained, says Brown
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Algae in famed Kent oyster beds threatens to ruin producers
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Scallop ban 'could end industry'
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Factory worker being treated for anthrax
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Anthrax alert hits factory in Yorkshire
19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever nearly under control, minister believes
18 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Crisis for British farming as fever spreads
17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - US curbs English pork imports as outbreak spreads
17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - I'm in shock, it's too unbelievable for words
17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Spread of swine fever feared
16 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Fresh hope for pig farmers over EU ban
16 Aug 00 - Food Safety - How pigs, pt and pettiness can lead to trade wars
15 Aug 00 - Food Safety - EU bans pig exports from England
08 Aug 00 - Food Safety - ABC: Organic Food Report Incorrect
06 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Toxic algae leads to ban on oysters
03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Thousands of fish die in wave of pollution
03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - UN accuses tobacco firms of spying plot
03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Tobacco 'spies' exposed
02 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Chemicals are threat to unborn daughters
02 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Store claims to be beating salmonella in eggs
31 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Cadbury's investigates chocolate recycling claim
30 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Chemicals spark strawberry wars
25 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Organic farmers fear growing pains



20 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Herds of wild boar blamed for swine fever outbreak

John Elliott

Sunday Times ... Sunday 20 August 2000


The Ministry of Agriculture has ignored repeated warnings from pig experts that herds of wild boar living in the countryside pose a grave danger of spreading swine fever.

European Union scientists last week blamed illegally imported wild boar for the present outbreak of the contagious disease in Britain, which has led to the suspension of live pig exports from the UK and plunged the pig industry into crisis.

Eighteen months ago the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) publicised a report into feral wild boar living in the countryside. Noting that there had been contact and even mating between wild boar and farm pigs, it said that free-living boar could spread diseases.

It warned that if swine fever were to infect the wild boar population, feral pigs "could continually reinfect the domestic pig stock, with considerable economic consequences".

Simon Betney was secretary of the British Wild Boar Association (BWBA) when the ministry announced its report in 1998, and said he urged the government to cull boar . "The position of the BWBA, along with other pig producers, is that any wild boar in Britain should be cleared up, because they are a reservoir for the disease," he said.

"The opinion at the time of the report was that not enough was done. There were many discussions with the government at the time. There has always been concern about this."

Several hundred wild boar currently roam the home counties after escaping from farms and have also been sighted in Humberside, which has the highest concentration of pig production in Europe.

In Germany and eastern Europe, outbreaks of swine fever are regularly traced back to wild herds of boar, which harbour the disease.

"If we're going to have commercial pig farming in this country, we can't allow pigs to run wild in the countryside," said John Mackinnon, a former president of the Pig Veterinary Society, whose members have also called for wild boar tobe culled. "We don't know what animals they have come into contact with during the present outbreak. They might be harbouring it."

Shortly before the Maff report was published, John Wilkinson, a distinguished pig specialist, warned: "The agriculture ministry wiped out coypu, a South American rodent which escaped from British fur farms. A similar campaign should be mounted against boar before the problem gets out of hand and there is an epidemic of disease such as swine fever."

Pig farmers also protested, warning that wandering boar posed a very real threat. John Rowbottom, a Yorkshire pig farmer, said: "It is not a good thing to have them roaming the countryside. Scavenging boar could pick up a discarded sandwich at a local picnic area containing infected foreign pig meat. It is against the law for farmers to feed such scraps to pigs, but wild boar could cause an outbreak of swine disease."

But despite the urgings for a cull and greater security at wild boar farms, no action was taken . A Maff spokesman said yesterday the need for a cull "was not a view we supported at that time". He said that British farming practices differed from German ones, thus "wild boar has not been treated as a significant factor in the outbreak of the disease here".

Boar regularly break out of captivity and survive easily in the wild. Last Wednesday, an escaped boar in a village near Penzance tried to enter a house by jumping through a window. It attacked a German shepherd dog before it was finally shot. Sir Paul McCartney spent 100,000 last year on a fence to keep wild boar off his 1,000-acre estate in Peasmarsh, Sussex, where they had been tearing up trees.

Late last week Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, claimed that the current outbreak of swine fever had been contained in East Anglia, after tests had failed to find new cases of the disease. One hundred farms still under investigation are banned from selling pigs. European vets will meet in Brussels this week to decide whether to lift the export ban.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pigs' appetite loss is farmers' great fear

Paul Heiney in Suffolk

Times ... Saturday 19 August 2000


The worries of those whose beasts remain healthy

This morning, and again this afternoon, a Suffolk pig farmer will go down to his feeding pens and trigger an explosion of fireworks.

"We've got big, bouncy rockets," Paul Hayward explains, "and they make a hell of a whizzy sound. The pigs aren't half confused, because it's not even Bonfire Night yet." Weekenders on the Suffolk coast may think they hear the sound of celebration; in fact the rockets are one farmer's desperate attempt to keep his pigs alive.

Mr Hayward is trying to scare the birds from his farm - and any other wild creature, such as fox or rabbit, which might be carrying the highly infectious swine fever. It is only ten miles to the farm where one of the early outbreaks was reported, and swine fever spreads quickly.

Today Mr Hayward has 800 healthy sows on his farm; tomorrow he could have none. His cosy trademark, Dingly Dell Pork, suddenly has a hollow ring to it.

I live in Suffolk, with outdoor pigs all around me. Every day the warm southerly wind has blown, I have wondered if it will carry the fever with it from the infectious farm a dozen miles upwind. As a former pig-keeper I can't help peering over the hedge to check that my neighbours are doing what all pigs should, searching for grub. The first symptom of any illness, the portent of serious trouble with a pig, is when feeding stops.

Our old, beloved, Large Black sow, Alice, died of old age a few years ago having had hardly a day's illness in her life, until one morning she shunned the swill bucket. The next morning she was dead. When the pigs next door give up their headlong race to be first at the pig nuts, I shall fear the worst.

Mr Hayward farms at maximum vigilance. "Anything that doesn't need to come to our farm doesn't get through the gate. Lorries drive through disinfectant, so do tractors. But people are a problem."

He sighs. "The public don't like farmers, so if I put something down near a footpath for them to walk through, to disinfect the soles of their shoes, I don't suppose they'd use it."

Mr Hayward also fears public opinion. "I'm worried that the public might turn against pig meat if someone invents a scare story. That really would be the end for us."

All experts agree that swine fever is no threat to human health, but in the mind of a confused consumer, still hanging on to the false notion that all eggs were "infected" and all cows "mad", there is potential for lasting damage to an already fragile market.

British pork has only recently emerged from an avalanche of cheap and arguably far less welfare-friendly European pig meat. The outdoor pigs now visible all over the southern counties are having a far healthier and happier time than they would in a Danish battery unit. Paradoxically, they are also more vulnerable to infection from outside.

It is on farms like Mr Hayward's, where the swine fever has yet to strike, that the suffering may be most prolonged. No farmer living in a 25-mile wide surveillance area can move a pig off his farm, and so on Mr Hayward's farm, which produces 250 fattened pigs a week, the population is increasing at a worrying rate.

Mr Hayward is lucky, and has room to expand, but some farmers do not. When money is short and space is tight, welfare might get pushed lower down the farmer's agenda than the pigs would like.

For a farmer working on a large overdraft, which Mr Hayward says all pig farmers are, it is a nightmare in which the more pigs he feeds, the more he has to feed - with not a penny to show for it. The light at the end of the tunnel is hardly welcoming either. "It could be weeks, not days, before we can sell any pigs," he says, "and even then, who is going to buy pigs from a surveillance area?" At least a farmer gets compensation for a fevered pig.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever may have spread to 36 farms

By Steve Bird

Times ... Saturday 19 August 2000


Farmers' hopes that the ban on exports of English pigs could be lifted next week were dashed yesterday as it emerged that 36 rather than five farms may be contaminated with swine fever.

The European Union veterinary committee will hold a crucial meeting on Tuesday to decide whether the disease has been successfully contained on the five farms in East Anglia found to have the virus.

But Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food scientists are awaiting test results from the other 31 , scattered throughout England, where pigs have shown swine fever symptoms.

If the blood and tissue samples give an all-clear, MAFF officials will urge the EU to limit the ban to just East Anglia.

The 31 suspected cases are as far-flung as the Isle of Wight, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Sussex, Cheshire and Dorset.

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, yesterday held a three-hour meeting with representatives of the pig industry to discuss the classical swine fever outbreak.

He vowed to get English farmers similar compensation packages to those given to farmers in Germany and The Netherlands when they had an outbreak a few years ago.

But pig farms now also face the prospect of overcrowding . Sows are continuing to produce litters and the older beasts cannot be taken to markets or slaughterhouses.

Mr Brown said: "It's manageable for a short period of time, but if the restrictions are going to be extended for any length, then there's a danger that animal welfare problems could build up."

He added: "I am absolutely determined that farmers in this country will be treated the same way as farmers from other parts of the EU when they have experienced similar circumstances."

James Black, the vice-chairman of the National Pig Association, said the meeting had been constructive, but he doubted whether the EU would lift the ban next week.

"They are going to need a lot of persuading , in much the same way we would if the boot was on the other foot.

"These other countries have expended a lot of effort in trying to ensure they haven't got swine fever there. The efforts we have put in place have given us a fair degree of confidence that we have got it under control."

One senior MAFF source said the worst-case scenario was the possibility that the European Commission would ban exports of pork meat from England.

European farmers fear that contaminated meat, while not dangerous for humans, could help to spread the disease on the Continent .

Any such ban would bring the industry to its knees . Pig farmers are already struggling with the effects of the high value of the pound and cheaper pork imports.

As the present ban lingers on , the industry is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Tests taken from the 31 farms can take up to eight days to be processed.

Each sample has to be monitored every 24 hours to ensure that the virus is not lying dormant.

Jim Scudamore, the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer, said: "It's quite encouraging that we are not getting any positive results yet."

Farms under investigation have been banned from transporting pigs while tests are carried out.

"It would be very early to get an all-clear for England for swine fever, but if we can show we haven't got the disease spreading they might take a decision on whether the ban needs to cover England or a smaller area," Mr Scudamore said.

The European Commission announced that the swine fever outbreak in East Anglia was similar to a strain found in wild boar illegally exported from Asia to Europe in 1998.

Researchers at the European Union's laboratory in Germany linked the strain found in Norfolk, Sussex and Essex to one that already exists on their files.

The discovery has raised the possibility that the latest emergence of the disease, last seen in Britain 14 years ago, could be a new strain .

Andrea Dahmen, an EC spokesman, said that it was not clear in which Asian country the virus had originated.

"It is a new strain, but it is similar to the one that came from Asia. It could be a mutation but it's too early to tell," she said.

It is not the same strain as the virus that sparked a swine fever outbreak wreaking havoc in The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pigs 'infected by wild boar'

Paul Brown and Andrew Osborn in Brussels

Guardian ... Saturday 19 August 2000


Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said yesterday he believed the outbreak of swine fever on East Anglian farms had been contained but that final confirmation would not be received until tests on 31 farms still under investigation had been completed.

An optimistic Mr Brown met leaders of the pig industry yesterday and reassured them of extra government help if the outbreak continued.

In Brussels, the European commission disclosed that the virus which caused the East Anglian outbreak was very similar to one carried by a wild boar illegally imported into continental Europe from Asia two years ago.

Officials believe the contaminated boar may have passed the contagious disease on to a pig which was later imported into the UK with catastrophic consequences.

EU experts working at a laboratory in Hanover made the connection after testing blood samples from infected East Anglian pigs.

"It's a new strain, but it is similar to the one that came from Asia. It could be a mutation but it's too early to tell," an EC spokeswoman, Andrea Dahmen, explained.

The revelation will come as a relief to many farmers in the UK, since it had earlier been feared that the disease was the same virulent strain which swept through the Netherlands in 1997, spreading to Belgium and Germany.

Millions of pounds were paid out in compensation during that outbreak and 14m pigs had to be slaughtered before the disease was brought under control.

A panel of EU veterinary experts will meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss whether the Europe-wide ban on the export of English pigs should be extended or amended.

Mr Brown said that by then extensive results should be available from all 31 farms under investigation and from another 100 farms which are under restrictions because of their proximity to the outbreaks or because of some link to them.

Despite hundreds of tests over the last week no pig has tested positive since August 12 , although there is still time for the disease to incubate in pigs which so far appear to be healthy. The government's chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore, said signs were "encouraging ."

Only five farms have been confirmed with swine fever, Mr Scudamore said, with a further 31 premises reporting sick pigs, but none of the tests on these had so far provided a positive result.

Mr Scudamore said: "I am not going to commit myself on what is happening because it would be very unwise, but... the results seem to be encouraging."

Farms in East Anglia, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Sussex, the Isle of Wight and Dorset have been banned from transporting pigs while tests are carried out.

Mr Scudamore said "Tuesday will be very early to get an all clear for England for swine fever, but if we can show we haven't got the disease spreading the vets might take a decision on whether the ban needs to cover England or a smaller area." For example, Yorkshire had no farms under investigation and that could be excluded from export restrictions.

John Godfrey, chairman of the National Pig Association, said it was important that the EU's restrictions on pig exports were not allowed to cripple the industry in England.

"The priority is to control the disease... and the Ministry of Agriculture has done a superb job in identifying and making sure that the disease does not spread," he said.

"We now have to work out a system to see that those controls do not permanently financially damage quite a lot of pig farmers. We have lost money for two years, we are only just starting to make money again, and this is another body blow."


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever outbreak is contained, says Brown

By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Saturday 19 August 2000


The outbreak of classic swine fever, which sparked a European ban on live pig exports from Britain, has been contained , Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, claimed last night.

Further tests on pigs have so far failed to find any new cases of the illness

Tests on pigs suspected of harbouring the disease had so far failed to find new cases of the illness, which has led to the slaughter of 12,000 animals on five farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Although 100 farms in England are barred from selling pigs while they are under investigation, Mr Brown praised the way the Government's veterinary service had handled the crisis, which could have wiped out the industry. "Their work got this contained," he said.

He claimed that media reports that the disease was spreading were "completely wrong" , saying: "The story at the moment is that it isn't spreading. Our object is to bear down on the disease so that we get out of this and back to normal trade as quickly as we can."

However, Mr Brown's cautious optimism will not be enough to lift the EU's ban on pig exports when European vets meet in Brussels next Tuesday. He said more test results would be needed. Jim Scudamore, chief veterinary officer, said: "The results so far are quite encouraging , but I wouldn't want to commit myself. They are quite encouraging in that we are not getting any positive results."

Mr Brown said that consultations with countries including France and Germany had been "very helpful" and the European Commission had "gone out of their way to help us". He told a meeting of industry representatives that he would campaign to ensure British farmers receive the same compensation as that offered to those hit by swine fever outbreaks in other countries.

But he said that the money on offer would not exceed the amount set under European guidelines. He said: "I will make sure we are treated fairly, as fairly as anyone else. But by far the best thing to do is to get this disease under control and get back to normal trading."

Mr Brown will hold meetings next week to discuss what forms compensation might take, although he pointed out that other European countries had not offered extra cash to farmers. Scientists for the Commission yesterday claimed they had traced the outbreak of swine fever, which is transmitted by contact with an infected pig's excretions, to Asian wild boars imported illegally into Britain in 1998 .


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Algae in famed Kent oyster beds threatens to ruin producers

By Peter Birkett

Independent ... Saturday 19 August 2000


The producers of the famed oysters at Whitstable in Kent are facing financial ruin after the indefinite closure of the oyster beds because of a health scare .

The crisis follows the discovery of an algae-born bug, diarrhoetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) , in the beds off the north Kent seaside town and comes just three years after the Whitstable beds won protected geographic location status for its oysters under European law.

As a result of the closure, Seasalter Shellfish (Whitstable) Ltd, which owns the oyster beds, has been forced to make five of its 22-strong workforce redundant, give up its harbourside offices and sell off one of its hatcheries.

"We are desolate ," said Ms Elaine Kirkaldie, a partner in the company. "We are in real trouble and we can only wait to see how much deeper that will get."

DSP, which has never before affected the Whitstable waters, causes diarrhoea and sickness within hours of eating infected shellfish. It was discovered during routine monitoring three weeks ago - not in the oysters themselves, but in the cockles and clams which share the beds, and which are owned by the company.

Indeed, the firm has been doubly hit by misfortune. It also sells seed oysters, mainly to Ireland, which then supplies the French oyster market. But because of pollution fears after the Erika oil disaster in Brittany before Christmas, French demand has dropped sharply.

Marine biologist John Bayes, the firm's managing director, said that the business would normally be selling 20 tons of cockles a week, as well as oysters and clams if his beds were open. "It is costing us about 1,000 a day and that just can't go on indefinitely."

He believes the infection may be due to the wet spring following two dry summers. "It is possible that all the rain has washed nutrients into the estuary, which have turned it into a soup ideal for the algae to breed," he says. "The thing about the Thames estuary normally is that there is a good exchange of seas to flush everything away."

Scientists are monitoring the shellfish weekly; a minimum of two consecutive all-clears are needed before the area can be deemed safe.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Scallop ban 'could end industry'

Staff Reported

Telegraph ... Saturday 19 August 2000


The latest ban on scallop fishing off the west coast of Scotland could sound the death knell for the industry if the Government fails to act, industry representatives warned last night.

The Food Standards Agency Scotland banned scallop fishing in 22 areas from the Western Isles to the Mull of Kintyre on Thursday following the discovery of excessive levels of toxin . Politicians from all sides yesterday called for action to be taken to support the industry, which had already been hit by a six month ban from June 1999 because of the toxin, which arises from naturally occurring algal blooms.

The ban, which only affects scallops, is designed to protect the public from the toxins, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, memory loss and even coma . Dr Ian Duncan, secretary of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the industry, which lost an estimated 10 million in the last year, faced a "catastrophe".

He said that hundreds of jobs in the fishing industry and up to 500 jobs in fishing communities were at risk from a lengthy ban.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Factory worker being treated for anthrax

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Saturday 19 August 2000


A man of 35 was in hospital last night with anthrax , now a rare disease contracted from cattle hides or wool fleeces .

The man, who has not been named, is thought to have been infected after cutting his arm at the factory where he works in Bradford. He is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to recover.

Anthrax was fairly common a century ago among workers in Bradford's woollen textile industry who were in contact with infected wool fleeces.

Dr Ruth Gelletlie, of Bradford health authority, said: "We believe he was infected through a cut or abrasion. As a precautionary measure, other workers at the factory have been alerted and told to be aware of the possible symptoms of anthrax and seek medical help if they are concerned, as early treatment is important."

"Anthrax cannot be passed on by person to person contact. At this stage it is very unlikely that more cases will be discovered." Anthrax is usually carried by sheep and cattle and in humans affects the skin and lungs.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Anthrax alert hits factory in Yorkshire

By Terri Judd

Independent ... Saturday 19 August 2000


Workers at a Yorkshire factory have been warned to look out for signs of anthrax after one of their colleagues was struck down by the rare disease. It is believed that the 35-year-old factory worker from Bradford became infected from a cut on his arm.

Anthrax, which affects sheep and cattle, was common among workers in Bradford's woollen textile industry a century ago, but scientists thought it had been eradicated with chemical treatment of hides.

A health authority spokesman confirmed yesterday that workers had been warned about anthrax , which attacks the skin and lungs . Dr Ruth Gelletlie, Bradford Health Authority's consultant in communicable disease control, insisted that there was no need for public worry.

"Anthrax cannot be passed on by person-to-person contact," she said. "At this stage it is very unlikely that more cases will be discovered." She said the infected worker was expected to make a full recovery after treatment with antibiotics.

Anthrax, associated in recent times with biological weapons, is a highly infectious disease, caused by a bacteria which forms resistant spores that survive in the environment.

In 1941, scientists from Porton Down selected the remote Gruinard island off the coast of Scotland as test site for using anthrax as a biological weapon. Sheep and other animals were tethered to poles and anthrax bombs exploded. The animals died quickly, and the island was in quarantine until 1990, when it was finally safe for humans and animals to return.

Files in the Public Record Office in Kew, released last year, confirmed suspicions held by local people at the time that anthrax spores from Gruinard had spread to the nearby mainland. Files show that in the winter of 1942-43, seven cattle, two horses, three cats and 20 to 30 sheep died from anthrax.


19 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever nearly under control, minister believes

Paul Brown and Andrew Osborn in Brussels

Guardian ... Saturday 19 August 2000


Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said yesterday he believed the outbreak of swine fever on East Anglian farms had been contained but that final confirmation would not be received until tests on 31 farms still under investigation had been completed.

An optimistic Mr Brown met leaders of the pig industry yesterday and reassured them of extra government help if the outbreak continued.

In Brussels, the European commission disclosed that the virus which caused the East Anglian outbreak was very similar to one carried by a wild boar illegally imported into continental Europe from Asia two years ago.

Officials believe the contaminated boar may have passed the contagious disease on to a pig which was later imported into the UK with catastrophic consequences.

EU experts working at a laboratory in Hanover made the connection after testing blood samples from infected East Anglian pigs.

"It's a new strain, but it is similar to the one that came from Asia. It could be a mutation but it's too early to tell," an EC spokeswoman, Andrea Dahmen, explained.

The revelation will come as a relief to many farmers in the UK, since it had earlier been feared that the disease was the same virulent strain which swept through the Netherlands in 1997, spreading to Belgium and Germany.

Millions of pounds were paid out in compensation during that outbreak and 14m pigs had to be slaughtered before the disease was brought under control.

A panel of EU veterinary experts will meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss whether the Europe-wide ban on the export of English pigs should be extended or amended.

Mr Brown said that by then extensive results should be available from all 31 farms under investigation and from another 100 farms which are under restrictions because of their proximity to the outbreaks or because of some link to them.

Despite hundreds of tests over the last week no pig has tested positive since August 12, although there is still time for the disease to incubate in pigs which so far appear to be healthy. The government's chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore, said signs were "encouraging."

Only five farms have been confirmed with swine fever , Mr Scudamore said, with a further 31 premises reporting sick pigs, but none of the tests on these had so far provided a positive result.

Mr Scudamore said: "I am not going to commit myself on what is happening because it would be very unwise, but... the results seem to be encouraging."

Farms in East Anglia, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Sussex, the Isle of Wight and Dorset have been banned from transporting pigs while tests are carried out.

Mr Scudamore said "Tuesday will be very early to get an all clear for England for swine fever, but if we can show we haven't got the disease spreading the vets might take a decision on whether the ban needs to cover England or a smaller area." For example, Yorkshire had no farms under investigation and that could be excluded from export restrictions.

John Godfrey, chairman of the National Pig Association, said it was important that the EU's restrictions on pig exports were not allowed to cripple the industry in England.

"The priority is to control the disease... and the Ministry of Agriculture has done a superb job in identifying and making sure that the disease does not spread," he said.

"We now have to work out a system to see that those controls do not permanently financially damage quite a lot of pig farmers. We have lost money for two years, we are only just starting to make money again, and this is another body blow."


18 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Crisis for British farming as fever spreads

By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor

Independent ... Friday 18 August 2000


British farming is facing its biggest safety crisis since the BSE scandal after the Government last night extended its swine fever ban to 35 farms across the UK.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) placed restrictions on farms in eight counties, from the Isle of Wight to Lancashire, in a desperate attempt to contain the outbreak.

The shock decision was made after Maff scientists discovered the disease had spread rapidly from its previous confines of East Anglia. The move comes days after the European Commission imposed an EU-wide ban on the export of live pigs and pig semen.

In a bid to reassure Brussels, new restrictions were placed last night on seven farms in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Sussex, the Isle of Wight and Dorset.

All of the farms have been banned from transporting their pigs while Government vets make tests, a Maff spokeswoman said.

The other 28 farms under restrictions are in East Anglia. Five farms were confirmed with classical swine fever and 12,000 pigs have been slaughtered .

A direct link to the Norfolk breeding centre where the outbreak is thought to have started has been confirmed in 17 of the 35 cases.

"These farms are not necessarily going to be infected with classical swine fever," the Maff spokeswoman said. "The symptoms of swine fever can be very similar to other diseases."

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Secretary, will hold an emergency meeting with farmers in London today to discuss how to restrict the damage caused by the outbreak.

Yesterday Mr Brown pledged to keep the pig industry under tight control to prevent the spread of the disease and persuade the EU to lift its export ban.

Restrictions on the movement and slaughter of pigs would stay in place to show the EU that the outbreak has been limited to a certain area, he said.

The EU's Standing Veterinary Committee meets next Tuesday to decide whether to reduce the scope of the export ban if Britain can show that the outbreak of swine fever has been limited to a certain area. The present ban runs until 31 August.

"It is in everyone's interest - particularly that of pig producers - that we keep the outbreak of swine fever under control," Mr Brown said. "We must prevent the disease spreading because of the devastating effect it can have on pig farms.

"If we can convince our international trading partners we are taking effective action we will be better able to keep international trade controls to the minimum necessary."

Under EU laws, the Government is allowed to consider issuing licences for the slaughter of pigs from the 10km surveillance zones around infected farms seven days after the disease has been wiped out on the infected farm, he said. The pig meat from these areas must be cooked before it is sold to guarantee the disease is killed, he added.

Brussels banned exports after Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain had barred English livestock. The ban does not so far affect Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland pig farms, although the disease does tend to spread rapidly.

The United States decided yesterday to ban UK exports of live pigs. The US Agriculture Department announced temporary controls on all pig products, including meat, as well as live imports.

British officials had hoped the EU committee would narrow the ban to East Anglia, but the possibility of new cases is likely to mean that the committee will recommend an extension to the embargo.

There is no evidence that swine fever can be transmitted to humans, but the disease has catastrophic effects on animals.


17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - US curbs English pork imports as outbreak spreads

By Terri Judd

Independent ... Thursday 17 August 2000


The crisis in the pig industry, hit by an outbreak of swine fever, worsened yesterday when the United States joined Europe in imposing controls on English imports.

The US Agriculture Department announced temporary controls on all pig products, including meat, as well as live imports. A spokeswoman said: "We are putting shipments coming in of live animals, semen or products, on a temporary hold. We will deal with those on a case-by-case basis, based on whatever additional information can be provided about that specific shipment."

Although the move does not represent an official ban but case-by-case inspection of imports, an insider at the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said yesterday that the result could be the same.

In an echo of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy "mad cow" crisis, Maff officials met their European Union counterparts in Brussels yesterday to discuss the scale of the swine-fever outbreak and the ban on English produce.

Fears that attempts to contain the outbreak had failed were yesterday fuelled by reports that more suspected cases had been found outside the original East Anglian area. A possible outbreak at a Cheshire farm was particularly worrying as, unlike previous cases, it has no direct link with the original breeding unit. Tests have been done at the farm, near Macclesfield, and at a farm in Lincolnshire and one in Derbyshire that do have known links with the Norfolk source.

More than 12,000 pigs have been slaughtered over the past nine days at six farms in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, including the original breeding unit.

Phil Saunders, spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission, said: "The situation has not changed. This is still an attempt to isolate the problem and the sooner it is done the better. If there is only a one-point source it will be easy to track through the records to see where the pigs have gone. That will make isolation easier."

The informal meetings in Brussels yesterday were designed to look for a way forward in offering protection for farmers in Britain and Europe.

The European Commission has banned live exports of pigs from England. The ban, in place until 31 August, also includes semen, but not meat. It will be reviewed by EU veterinary experts at a meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee on 22 August.

Tim Yeo, the Tory agriculture spokesman, said Nick Brown, Minister of Agriculture, should not let the Commission extend the ban to pork itself. "It is now imperative that Nick Brown pulls out all the stops to control the situation and to ensure that these temporary bans do not escalate into longer-term bans or bans on fresh British pork. Unless Nick Brown acts at once, hundreds of pig farming businesses are at risk," Mr Yeo said.

It is feared that the knock-on effect of such bans will hit farmers heavily, even if their herds are uncontaminated.

The Government has restricted the movement of pigs and other livestock that have come into contact with them from areas affected by the outbreak during the Commission's ban. Farmers must obtain a special licence to transport cows, sheep and other animals from "surveillance areas" that cover a radius of approximately 10km around infected farms.


17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - I'm in shock, it's too unbelievable for words

By Terri Judd

Independent ... Thursday 17 August 2000


Neville Kemp, a pig farmer, has gone past despair to what he calls "stage three" - a steely determination to survive.

"First of all you ask questions like 'Why?', then you blame others, and then in the third stage you reach the positive curve - you decide to do something about it and fight," he said yesterday.

Over the past four years, the pig breeder has faced continuous hurdles. The announcement last week that swine fever had broken out at a breeding unit only five kilometres from his land was just the latest in a long line of devastating blows. "I was just in a state of severe shock. It is just too unbelievable for words," he said yesterday.

Mr Kemp, 45, a tenant farmer for more than 20 years, has a herd of 720 breeding sows and a small number of Aberdeen Angus cattle on land near Thetford, Norfolk. Although his herd has not shown signs of infection, Mr Kemp is in a surveillance area for swine fever. The 300 pigs that are supposed to leave his farm for slaughter each week are now trapped on it. By next week, he will have almost 1,000 extra mouths to feed, with little hope of recuperating the cost at sale.

"It takes years and years and years to build up a business like this and overnight you could be worth nothing," he said. "But I am being positive. If you are negative the whole thing will fall down like a pack of cards."

Along with other pig farmers, his problems began in earnest with the crisis over bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 1996. With the ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to his livestock, he not only lost a cheap source of protein but incurred the cost of disposing of it. It cost him almost 120,000 per year.

Next, new laws were introduced in Britain, banning the use of stalls and tethers . Mr Kemp was forced to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in building more humane enclosures for his pigs to roam free.

The price of his pork plunged. Two years ago, a pig, which would cost him almost a 1 per kilo to raise, was selling for less than half that.

Eventually, half the pig keepers went out of business and supply dropped by one-third . This year, the dead-weight kilo price of a pig rose to more than 1. "We thought, finally, perhaps, we might in the next two or three years start to recoup the costs of the last four years," he said. Then, last week, swine fever was found in England.


17 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Spread of swine fever feared

Paul Brown and Andrew Osborne in Brussels

Guardian ... Thursday 17 August 2000


Three suspected further outbreaks of swine fever have raised the possibility of a devastating spread of the disease outside East Anglia.

Three farmers, in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, two of whom had taken piglets from British Quality Pigs, the Norfolk farm that was the source of the swine fever outbreak, contacted the Ministry of Agriculture after animals on their farms became ill.

Tests were ordered immediately but last night there were still no results.

Both the United States and Canada yesterday banned the import of pigs and meat yesterday in response to the confirmed outbreak on five farms, though the trade across the Atlantic is small compared with Europe. Exports of pigs and products total 126m, of which 22m comes from outside the European Union.

Officials of the ministry and the Department of Trade and Industry were in Brussels yesterday, meeting representatives of the European commission and agriculturalists from Germany and the Netherlands who have recent experience of tackling classic swine fever.

In 1997, an outbreak hit the relatively large Dutch pig population. More than 400 farms were affected and millions of pigs slaughtered in an epidemic that took more than a year to bring under control.

Germany suffered several cases in 1997 and 1998. Hundreds of thousands of pigs were slaughtered and export restrictions were applied to some lande (states). The virus in East Anglia looks likely to be the same as that which devastated the German industry. The source was never established but was believed to be a wild boar or an import from eastern Europe.

Commission sources indicated yesterday that it had been likely that the Europe-wide ban on English pig exports would be reduced to only East Anglia next week, provided no new cases had been confirmed. But one source said: "If it is confirmed that swine fever has spread to other parts of the country, they will probably vote to prolong the ban beyond August 31 or extend it to the rest of the UK."

An EC spokeswoman admitted that there was a chance that the herd of pigs where the disease was first discovered might have passed swine fever on to some 48 herds all over England owned by the same company.

Blood tests on the 48 herds are expected to resolve the matter within a few days. "Tests are still going on and so far we stay with five confirmed cases," said spokeswoman Andrea Dahman.

Andrew Garvey, of the meat and livestock commission, said that the US export ban would be a further blow to pig farmers. "We can well understand why the Americans have taken this decision. We also fully understand why our colleagues in the EU have put up the ban on live exports.

"But we are very concerned to resolve this issue quickly. The pig industry has been in crisis for the last two years and it is now in recovery. Exports are a very important part of our industry."


16 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Fresh hope for pig farmers over EU ban

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Wednesday 16 August 2000


The European Commission today announced that it may limit its ban on British live pigs and semen to the area of the original swine fever outbreak, provided the disease is successfully contained.

During all-day talks between British agricultural and veterinary officials and their EU counterparts in Brussels, commission spokeswoman Andrea Dahmen said that a decision would follow a meeting of the EU's standing veterinary committee on August 22.

"If the data submitted [by UK officials] to the veterinary committee shows the infection is contained, the commission may limit the ban to the region," she said.

The United States also said today that it was temporarily banning imports of live pigs, semen and pork products. The EU ban was extended to the whole of England because the primary herd identified with the disease, in East Anglia, belongs to a large company of 48 herds spread across England, and pigs may have been exchanged between them.

This is the first outbreak of swine fever in Britain for 14 years . Some 12,000 pigs - all the animals affected by the initial outbreak - have already been slaughtered in an attempt to contain the outbreak. But there have been reports of symptoms of classic swine fever appearing on farms in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire. Blood tests, which take between five days and a week to be conclusive, are being carried out to determine the extent of the infection.

The commission's ban does not affect pig meat because it felt there was no threat to human health. Spain, which has extended its ban to pig meat and all meat products, will be asked to re-evaluate its position in light of the commission's decision.

Andrew Garvey of the Meat and Livestock Commission said: "We can well understand why the Americans have taken this decision. This disease is very virulent and it does pass through the pig population very quickly," he said. "We also fully understand why our colleagues in the EU have put up the ban on live exports."

The shadow agriculture minister, Tim Yeo, said that the US government's decision to ban British pork products was a blow to farmers. "It is now imperative that [agriculture minister] Nick Brown pulls out all the stops to control the situation and to ensure that these temporary bans do not escalate into longer term bans or bans on fresh British pork."


16 Aug 00 - Food Safety - How pigs, pt and pettiness can lead to trade wars

Mark Tran

Guardian ... Wednesday 16 August 2000


Governments find it easy to impose tit-for-tat sanctions in the heat of the moment. But they can take years to be lifted. Taking its cue from the EU, the US has suspended all swine shipments from Britain following an outbreak of swine fever in East Anglia.

The US agriculture department said it had concerns about the transmission of the disease to America's livestock population, but added that the hold on shipments was "temporary". Canada is imposing similar restrictions.

Although highly infectious - it can wipe out whole pig herds - swine fever is not as lethal as BSE. The virus does not affect humans or cross to other species.

But such details easily get tossed aside in the heat of the moment as nationalist feelings come to the fore. Asda, the British supermarket chain, is already threatening to ban Belgian pork pt; a move designed to support domestic pig farmers as much as in retaliation for the EU ban.

The fear is that the EU and US ban could escalate into sanctions on pork itself. That would be a devastating blow to British farmers, picking themselves up after the scare on UK beef.

Escalation is not the only danger. Once these bans come into effect, they are not lifted easily. France is still dragging its feet on British beef, even though it has been ordered by the European commission to lift its ban. Although Lionel Jospin, the French prime minister, is inclined to let British beef back into the country, he has buckled to fierce domestic pressure to maintain the ban.

America's move on British pigs adds another layer to the already tangled web of trade disputes. The US and the EU are locked in a row over whether American exports of genetically modified foods should carry labels to that effect. Washington has warned the EU that it is considering making a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation on the grounds that labelling GM foods is unfair discrimination and therefore a restraint of trade.

The two trading giants are still bickering over bananas, with the US complaining about Caribbean producers getting preferential treatment from Brussels. The British government fears that the Scottish cashmere industry faces heavy job losses as a result of US retaliation in the long-running dispute.

Still, Britain has so far escaped sanctions in the row over the EU ban on the use of hormones in beef, which has led to a 12-year embargo on US beef.

A range of goods, including French cheese and truffles and German and French mustards, have faced 100% US tariffs in tit-for-tat action. But Britain's support for the US position, even though it cannot opt out of the EU ban, has meant British goods have not been targeted.

The best that Britain can hope for is that its swift action in slaughtering 12,000 pigs will mean that the US ban is indeed "temporary" and that the EU will follow suit.


15 Aug 00 - Food Safety - EU bans pig exports from England

Andrew Osborn in Brussels

Guardian ... Tuesday 15 August 2000


Britain's farming industry suffered another blow yesterday when the European commission banned the export of English pigs to the continent with immediate effect in response to an outbreak of classical swine fever in East Anglia.

Officials in Brussels said that they had been forced to act after they had discovered that the number of farms affected by the highly contagious disease was much greater than first thought.

"There were more and more holdings being reported to have swine fever and being suspected of swine fever. We had to do it as a precautionary measure," the commission's spokeswoman, Andrea Dahmen, said.

It is satisfied, however, that the outbreak is limited for the moment to East Anglia and stresses that swine fever does not pose any threat to human health.

The Europe-wide ban was agreed in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and will initially last until the end of this month.

It does not apply to exports of frozen pork destined for European supermarket shelves and will be reviewed by EU veterinary experts at a meeting on August 22.

It is, however, another serious blow to UK livestock farmers who are still struggling to rebuild their shattered European export market for beef which was destroyed in the wake of the BSE crisis.

British farmers will also be aware that an outbreak of swine fever in the Netherlands in 1997 led to the slaughter of up to 10m pigs and cost the Dutch government millions of pounds in compensation.

The ban will not apply to pigs from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland which have so far been unaffected by the disease.

The government was quick last night to say that it was doing everything in its power to stamp out the disease. It has introduced strict restrictions on the movements of animals and infected pigs are immediately being slaughtered.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain had already said that they would no longer accept live pigs from Britain as a precautionary measure and the Belgian and Dutch authorities were the two countries pushing hardest for some kind of EU-wide action.

This is the first time the disease has appeared in Britain for 14 years and it is capable of rapidly spreading through a region's pig population.

Thousands of pigs have been slaughtered in an attempt to stop the disease from spreading and a six-mile surveillance zone has been established around the farms affected.


08 Aug 00 - Food Safety - ABC: Organic Food Report Incorrect

Associated Press

Guardian ... Tuesday 8 August 2000


New York (AP) - ABC News admitted on Monday that a ''20/20'' report by John Stossel questioning the safety of organic produce was wrong and that the reporter would apologize on the air for his mistake on Friday.

The network wouldn't say whether Stossel or any ''20/20'' staffers would be disciplined . An environmental watchdog group is calling for Stossel to be fired .

The report, first aired in February and repeated last month, seemed to debunk the common belief that organic food is safer than regular foods because no pesticides are used.

Stossel said on the air that tests conducted on produce for ABC News ``surprisingly found no pesticide residue on the conventional samples or the organic.''

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group charged that pesticide tests on produce were never conducted for the show. ABC, in its statement on Monday, confirmed that the tests were not done .

ABC said Stossel was relying on inaccurate information that had been provided to him by a staff member. ``We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the error,'' the network said.

A producer mistakenly believed that a test done on chicken had also been done on produce, said an ABC executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Stossel did not return a message left on his answering machine Monday. A staff member said she believed Stossel was on vacation.

The environmental group also said that chicken was tested for pesticides at ABC's request, and traces were found on the regular poultry but not on the organic poultry. This finding favorable to the organic food proponents was not mentioned on the show, the group said.

ABC had no comment on Monday about any pesticide tests for chicken, saying it was still reviewing the report.

Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said that he was not satisfied with ABC's statement.

About Stossel, Cook said: ``He's not a contrarian, he's a counterfeiter who'll do anything for ratings. He needs to be fired.''

The group said it had complained to ABC about the report's accuracy after it originally aired in February. Despite this, Stossel repeated the mistake on July 7 in a comment made to anchorwoman Cynthia McFadden: ``It's logical to worry about pesticide residues, but in our tests, we found none on either organic or regular produce.''

After the environmentalists' original complaints, the network sent a form letter erroneously claiming that pesticide tests had been conducted on produce, said Mike Casey, the group's spokesman. ``They absolutely didn't take this seriously,'' he said.

ABC said it was investigating why the mistake was repeated despite the outside warnings.


06 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Toxic algae leads to ban on oysters

Burhan Wazir

Guardian ... Sunday 6 August 2000


The Whitstable Royal Native oyster was off the menu yesterday after a complete ban on removing the shellfish from the Thames Estuary.

The oyster ban was imposed on the Whitstable fishing industry - one of the largest in the country- after shellfish tested positive for toxic algae . The algae, DSP - diuretic shellfish poisoning - can cause serious food poisoning within 12 hours.

John Bayes, managing director of the Seasalter shellfish company, one of Britain's largest suppliers, said yesterday: 'We have received a three-page banning order and will cease all activity for a month at least. The toxic algae does crop up from time to time, but it is so rare that we have stopped monitoring for it.'

The ban has been issued for 28 days, but could be extended if the algae fails to clear naturally.

Ann Francis, a spokeswoman for Canterbury City Council, said: 'We must act in the interest of public safety by banning shellfish collection until the algae levels subside.

'Local businesses are aware of the problem, and have been extremely co-operative.'

Yesterday, fishermen ruefully contemplated the loss to local industry. Standing outside his pub, John Hudson, 43, pointed to neighbouring restaurants in the area. 'They will have a hard time,' he said.

'People are here especially for the oysters; they are famous the whole world over. This will hit us hard.'

'This is a big industry for us, lots of tourism depends on it. Without any oysters, there is no work,' he added. It will be difficult around here over the next month.'

Oysters are particularly vulnerable to predators and the natural elements - prolonged periods of cold weather, starfish and crabs can all ravage the supply.

The Thames Estuary grounds have been renowned for centuries for the quality of their oysters. At its peak, the Whitstable ground extended offshore, covering one and a half square miles.

The Whitstable oyster industry was hit by a series of natural disasters last century.

In 1947 there was a severe and damaging winter followed by floods in 1953. A cold spell in 1963 caused exceptional oyster losses, as waters ebbed in depth from 16 feet down to three feet.

The Eighties' economic boom saw the revival of the industry.

'The timing of the ban seems strange,' said John Bayes, yesterday, referring to the annual oyster festival at the end of July.

'We have just had a festival where tens of thousands of oysters were sold without any problems.'


03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Thousands of fish die in wave of pollution

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 3 August 2000


A wave of pollution incidents which has left tens of thousands of fish dead and 32 miles of river and canal polluted is being blamed by the Environment Agency on managers taking their holidays.

The most serious incident was the spillage of a mystery substance into the Welsh Dee last Saturday which has wiped out more than 10,000 fish , including declining stocks of salmon and sea trout, in 18 miles of the most heavily monitored river in the country. The agency is still searching around Bangor-on-Dee for the source of the spillage, which some anglers estimate may have killed 100,000 fish .

Andrew Dixon, environment protection manager for the agency in North Wales, said that coarse fish such as perch, roach, dace, chub and barbel had been hardest hit, along with some sea fish such as flounder. Salmon and sea trout up to 8lb had also been found dead. Drinking water abstraction plants were switched off within hours of dead fish being found.

The total fish numbers killed by the pollution will not be known until a survey is completed in two weeks' time. Agency staff, who were concentrating their search around Farndon, Cheshire, yesterday said that the cause was probably industrial pollution but they are not ruling out a criminal act.

The first pollution incident of the present wave was last Thursday when 36,000 fish , including brown trout up to 3lb, stone loach, bullheads, minnows and sticklebacks, were found dead in the River Irwell in Rawtenstall, Lancashire.

Between Wednesday and Friday last week pollution, probably slurry, entered the River Cale in Dorset, killing all the fish in a four-mile stretch . About 3,000 fish, including chub, carp, pike, eels, minnows, gudgeon and stone loach, were killed as oxygen was stripped from the water.

On Saturday sewage escaped into the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigational Canal near Mexborough, killing 10,000 fish, including roach, perch and bream. On Sunday, an oily substance escaped into the Rosper Road nature reserve in South Killingholme, Lincolnshire, killing sticklebacks and protected insects.


03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - UN accuses tobacco firms of spying plot

By Jeremy Laurance

Independent ... Thursday 3 August 2000


Multinational tobacco companies, including British American and Philip Morris, worked for years to discredit the World Health Organisation and subvert its programmes intended to curb smoking , says a United Nations report published yesterday.

Tobacco industry executives infiltrated the WHO and used other UN agencies to acquire information about it. They also lobbied delegates from developing countries to resist antitobacco resolutions.

"The tobacco company's own documents show that they viewed the WHO... as one of their foremost enemies," said the report by a group of independent experts.

Citing tobacco industry documents released during litigation in the United States, the four-member committee urged WHO member countries to investigate industry attempts to infiltrate their own health efforts. The report found that tobacco companies often covered up their role - for example by secretly funding "independent" experts to conduct research, appear at conferences and lobby WHO scientists with the intention of distorting , discrediting or influencing studies.

"The tobacco companies hid behind a variety of ostensibly independent quasi-academic, public policy and business organisations whose tobacco industry funding was not disclosed ," the experts said. Derek Yach, head of the WHO's tobacco free initiative, added that, as a result, "we haven't seen the full impact of tax, legislative actions on advertising and marketing, improved focus on quitting, all of which means that we probably have substantially more smokers in the world today and substantially more deaths than we would have in the absence of these activities".

The WHO has made the fight against smoking a top priority. It aims to conclude a global accord to cut cigarette consumption and stem the rising death toll by May 2003.


03 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Tobacco 'spies' exposed

Peter Capella in Geneva

Guardian ... Thursday 3 August 2000


Philip Morris , the world's largest cigarette company, admitted yesterday that it had paid scientists to attend World Health Organisation meetings but said it had done nothing improper to influence the UN body.

The admission came after a report by the WHO accused tobacco companies of trying to subvert international attempts to control smoking over the past two decades through an "elaborate, well financed, sophisticated and usually invisible" campaign.

In the 247-page report, based on documents tobacco companies were forced to release during lawsuits in the US, four experts detailed evidence of "clandestine " methods that went beyond the usual lobbying. Consultants with covert tobacco links were put in key posts at international health agencies, raising "serious questions about whether the integrity of WHO decision-making has been compromised ".

"The documents show that tobacco companies sought to divert attention from the public health issues raised by tobacco use, to reduce budgets for the scientific and policy activities carried out by WHO, to pit other UN agencies against the WHO, to convince developing countries that WHO's tobacco control programme was a 'First World' agenda carried out at the expense of the developing world, to distort the results of important scientific studies on tobacco and to discredit WHO as an institution."

David Davies, vice-president of the EU region of Philip Morris International, said yesterday: "It is true that we had scientists retained by us to secure information.

"But there is nothing in the document and nothing in the report to suggest there was anything improper that occurred in relation to those activities and certainly nothing which in any sense influenced or undermined the activities of the WHO."

Mr Davies said that during the late 1980s and early 1990s Philip Morris had paid "a handful" of scientists to go to "ordinary plenary meetings" of the WHO to which it as a company had been denied access.

Mr Davies said those people were known to be working with the tobacco industry.

"I'm aware of one individual who had been a delegate to the WHO. We subsequently entered into arrangements with this person where we assisted in disseminating his views that were critical of the WHO," Mr Davies said.

He denied that tobacco companies had sought to influence research into smoking, but said a toxicologist working with a joint committee of the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had also worked for a tobacco industry body. "As I understand it it was not known to a number of people that he had been separately retained by the tobacco industry."

At the end of the report the experts, led by Thomas Zeltner, the director of Switzerland's public health authority, conclude: "That top executives of tobacco companies sat together to design and set in motion elaborate strategies to subvert a public health organisation is unacceptable and must be condemned ."

They recommended further investigation in the WHO's 189 member states, including Britain, as well as other UN agencies, including the FAO, because of "possible clandestine tobacco company influence" on policies and officials.

British American Tobacco said the experts had misrepresented "the tobacco industry's legitimate lobbying activity".

The WHO adopted rules earlier this year obliging its employees to declare any conflict of interest and has not ruled out further action after the report.

Dr Zeltner said: "The consequences of the tobacco industry's misconduct fall not on global institutions but on people - by undermining tobacco control activities, tobacco companies have increased the toll of lives damaged and lost."

The WHO estimates that about 4m deaths a year are caused by tobacco, rising to about 10m by 2020.


02 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Chemicals are threat to unborn daughters

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Guardian ... Wednesday 2 August 2000


Evidence that exposure of pregnant women to chemicals in the environment could age the ovaries of their unborn daughters has been found by a British study.

Scientists are increasingly concerned by exposure to chemicals which mimic the action of human hormones, dubbed xeno-oestrogens or endocrine disrupting chemicals, and they have focused much of their efforts on understanding the effects on male fertility. In the light of the new findings, they now fear that, when a pregnant woman is exposed to pollutants and chemicals with hormone-like action, it could affect the health of unborn daughters, perhaps by advancing the onset of their daughter's menopause.

The findings were presented to 800 doctors and experts by Dr Helen Picton of Leeds University at the Fertility 2000 meeting in Edinburgh. She has been doing one of the first detailed studies on toxicological effects of the chemicals on women after population studies suggested a link between various cancers, advanced puberty and endometriosis.

A huge effort to understand the effect of xeno-oestrogens on human health is already under way but much of this work is focused on evidence that male sperm is declining in quantity and quality . Animal studies, such as those on rams, suggest they may indeed be responsible . But Dr Picton's work on sheep, which react in a similar way as humans to the chemicals, is the first to study the effects on the ovaries of the developing foetus.

Working with Dr Torres Sweeney, of University College, Dublin, she found that one potent synthetic form of oestrogen, called DES, speeds the production of follicles, the "incubators" in the ovary that nurture eggs throughout their growth to ovulation. Dr Picton told the meeting: "It is altering the overall population of early stage follicles in the early embryo." Similar effects on "folliculogenesis" were found when the study was repeated with an environmental oestrogen, called octylphenol, which is found in household products.

Although more work must be done to investigate what the consequences are when an affected foetus develops into an adult, it does suggest that exposure to environmental oestrogens is speeding the ageing of the foetal ovaries . She said: "The full complement of oocytes [eggs] available in adult life is laid down early in the development of the foetal ovary.

"Any perturbation of this event which may be induced through maternal exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds such as octylphenol may compromise reproductive health later in life." She added that there is some evidence, though still equivocal, that the age of menopause may be dropping, adding urgency to the need to conduct more research to unravel the effects on the unborn female child.

In follow-up research, the research team will also have to make sure that accelerated follicle development in the foetus caused by the gender benders does indeed deplete the store of eggs when that individual grows into an adult. Dr Picton pointed out that in women only one follicle in a thousand will ovulate naturally in each of her reproductive cycles and that her team has to check how those environmental pollutants affect this key subset of the follicle population.


02 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Store claims to be beating salmonella in eggs

James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 2 August 2000


Sainsbury yesterday claimed a new technique of pasteurising eggs in their shells would go some way to eliminating the health risk that raw and lightly cooked eggs pose in pregnancy and for babies and the elderly.

The heat treatment, which is said to kill salmonella bacteria in raw eggs, does not alter the taste or texture of the eggs, Sainsbury said. Consumer trials will be conducted before the eggs - which could be more costly for customers - go on sale next year.

The chain's move is the latest in the supermarket world to aim at the position of leader in food safety. Since the salmonella in eggs scare in the 1980s the industry has endeavoured to prove it can significantly cut the risks of food poisoning.

Sainsbury's chief microbiologist, Alec Kyriakides, said: "Developing a simple natural process which eliminates the risk is a major leap forward in food safety."

The British Egg Industry Council, however, questioned the need for pasteurisation given the move to vaccinate flocks. About 70% of the 27m eggs eaten by Britons daily are already covered by the Lion quality mark.


31 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Cadbury's investigates chocolate recycling claim

Press Association

Guardian ... Monday 31 July 2000


Cadbury's announced yesterday it had stopped using a contractor pending an inquiry into allegations that chocolate earmarked for pig feed was reused in its products.

A claim was made yesterday in a Sunday newspaper that the long-standing contractor was taking chocolate labelled Unfit for Human Consumption and reusing it in bars such as Dairy Milk and Creme Eggs .

A spokesman for Cadbury's said it would not use chocolate processed by R and JB Higgins of Chaddesley Corbett , Worcestershire, until it had investigated, but added that it had "total confidence" in the firm.

Higgins denied the claims, saying: "The public have nothing to fear." Its workers strip chocolate bars designated as waste, sent from Cadbury's Bournville factory in the West Midlands or from outside distribution centres.

A Cadbury's spokesman said that bars damaged in production, but in every other way perfect, were sent back to Bournville or another factory for remelting. Those near or just past their Best Before date were sent for resale at Cadbury's staff shop, and those past their sell-by date were destined for pig feed. Workers at Higgins were accused by the Sunday Mirror of shifting bars from the pig feed pile onto that to be sent for remelting.


30 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Chemicals spark strawberry wars

By Andrew Alderson and Jenny Jarvie

Telegraph ... Sunday 30 July 2000


Strawberry wars have broken out between Britain and the Low Countries after three supermarket chains turned away fruit from Holland and Belgium because it contained unacceptable levels of chemicals .

British strawberry growers accused their continental rivals yesterday of flouting guidelines relating to fungicides and not showing enough concern for the welfare of consumers. Following growing pressure from British supermarkets and growers, Government health watchdogs say they will carry out more random checks on imported strawberries.

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency confirmed yesterday that three supermarket chains had turned away strawberries from Holland and Belgium earlier this month after their own tests revealed that the consignments contained unacceptable levels of cyprodinil . In Britain, the fungicide cannot be used on strawberries, though it can be used on apples and cereals.

Cyprodinil is not permitted for use in Holland, although it is not banned in neighbouring Belgium provided that its levels are below national safety standards. However tests on strawberries by four environmental groups, including Greenpeace, sold in Holland have disclosed that the fruit contained cyprodinil .

The Pesticides Safety Directorate, which evaluates and approves pesticides for use in Britain, has expressed its concerns over imported strawberries. In a letter to supermarkets, Kerry Paylor, of the Directorate's Consumer Safety and European Branch, says: "The general concern is that the wet weather this summer may have led to increased fungicide use."

She said that, in view of the recent developments, Belgian and Dutch strawberries would be subject to additional tests this summer. Jill Mycock, the sales director at Mockbeggar Farm in Rochester, Kent, said yesterday: "British growers try extremely hard to produce safe food and it is unfair if foreign growers are producing strawberries that are less safe. I can assure consumers that our strawberries are entirely safe. We operate within the rules and follow supermarket guidelines."


25 Jul 00 - Food Safety - Organic farmers fear growing pains

Mary O'Hara

Guardian ... Tuesday 25 July 2000


Demand for traditional food values comes into conflict with 21st century mass marketing

It is a sunny summer morning on Northwood farm in Devon. Tim Deane, his son and some local villagers are picking potatoes, carrots and beans from carefully cultivated soil. Later in the day they will load the vegetables into boxes, stack them on the back of a truck and drive them into town to sell at the market.

You could be forgiven for thinking this idyll exists only in someone's memory, but it is in fact farming life 21st century style. Mr Deane and his wife Jan, who own Northwood's 30 acres, began farming organically in 1984. The couple and their family found the going tough in the early years so they set up the country's first "box scheme" - delivering a selection of produce to local customers each week - to generate extra income.

Struggling to keep up

Today they supply wholesalers and supermarkets as well as trying to keep up with local demand.

Organic food appears to be the modern shopper's creed. In high streets and on doorsteps it has its evangelists and an ever-expanding army of devotees.

Consumers across the globe are proving willing converts, happy to pay up to a 100% premium for anything from chocolate to chickens bearing the assurance that what they are eating has not been touched by pesticides.

Fears that GM foods might be unsafe and the the rise of the fatal new variant CJD have helped fuel demand for organic foods. The result - a 40% annual increase in sales of such produce, with total sales in Britain predicted to reach as much as 5bn by 2005.

Shops and supermarkets say they are struggling to keep up with demand. However, for a vivid symbol of the appeal of organics, look no further than some of the drastic measures British supermarkets have taken recently to secure their slice of the cake. Sainsbury, having scoured the planet for ways to meet customer demand for organic tropical fruit, settled on commissioning the entire agricultural production of fruit on the Caribbean island of Grenada .

The retail chain Iceland, as part of a mission to transform itself from a downmarket frozen foods outlet, has invested 9m in securing 40% of the world's organic fruit and vegetable production .

A number of supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, have begun offering grants to farmers if they convert to organic in an effort to reduce retailers' dependency on imports and thus reduce prices.

Simon Brenman of the Soil Association, which oversees organic standards in Britain, says: "I don't think the true impact has yet been felt. Companies are now under immense pressure to respond to consumer demand."

In just a few years the organic industry has gone from a pioneering cottage industry comprising a few farmers, co-operatives and specialist food shops scattered across the country to a multimillion-pound industry incorporating conglomerates such as Mars and Nestl.

Whole Earth Foods, which began life as a specialist producer of organic foods in 1967, is one beneficiary of the recent explosion of interest. Its managing director, William Kendal, confirms that in the past 18 months the company has grown at a faster rate than at any other time in its history. Some ranges he says, are growing "at enormous pace some by as much as 100% year on year". Mr Kendal adds: "We were relatively small and now, like most companies, we are expanding our range as demand escalates."

Consumers seem unable to get enough organic produce. Joan Ruddock, the Labour MP who is championing the Organic Food and Farming Targets bill which is scheduled for a second reading in the autumn, says: "People have become more discriminating. The public now feels that the only safe food is organic . This is good for the agriculture industry and public health."

She argues that in order for the consumer and farmers to get a better deal from the "organic phenomenon" the government needs to increase grants to British farmers to convert - and encourage retailers to reduce prices.

The supermarkets, which now account for the majority of organic food sales in Britain at 70%, have been accused of wielding too much power and exploiting demand by elevating prices.

The supermarkets are quick to deny any accusations of price-fixing . They blame the higher cost of organic production and imports - three quarters of organic food sold in Britain is imported. Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury and Iceland all claim they do not charge a premium for organic foods and that they are not raking in excess profits at the consumer's expense.

Marks & Spencer says its margins on organic foods are identical to those on conventional produce. A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "Our customers are aware that it costs extra to produce organic goods and are prepared to pay the additional cost."

Rising pressure

About 1% of Sainsbury's 6bn annual turnover now comes from organic food, and consumer groups are worried that as the proportion increases there will be rising pressure to enhance margins, not reduce them.

The Soil Association points out that much of the price differential arises from the cost of mass distribution in a global market. Everything from the cost of packaging to distribution is pushing the price of organic foods higher and there are concerns that prices will go up further as the supply change becomes more complex.

Whatever the disputes about price differentials, one thing is certain: profits from organic foods will grow dramatically in the coming years. The big question is who will pocket the money. As Jan Deane puts it: "This is not a bubble that is going to burst. This is about people's concerns about food and the environment. It isn't going to go away."