Document Directory

18 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Salad on takeaways is linked to salmonella
17 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Symbolic gesture urged on eateries
14 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Vets call for swine fever 'killing zones'
13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New Case Of Swine Fever Confirmed
13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Stop telling such porkies
13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Organic food sales set to mushroom
12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Teenagers hit by powerful food bug
12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - British Association: Teenagers struck by fast-food bug
12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Deadly fast-food superbug strikes hundreds of youths
11 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Serious food-poisoning outbreak linked to teenagers eating fast food
10 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Two new cases of swine fever reported
09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Meat meant for pet food 'supplied to restaurants'
09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Rotting petfood 'sold for human consumption'
09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Clue to pig fever culprit
09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Petfood 'served up as fit for humans'
07 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Hygiene ratings may be displayed in eating places
06 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Why is the Food Standards Agency so hostile to organics?
05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Farmers' anger mounts over pig disease curbs
05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New Swine Fever Case On Suffolk Farm
05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New case of swine fever is confirmed
04 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New swine fever case confirmed
30 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Japan food scare
28 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Vaccine under scrutiny after deaths
25 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Organic foods 'not more nutritious'
25 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Salmonella superbug hits 170 in three weeks
23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Europe scales down ban on pigs
23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pig export ban lifted in most areas
23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Minister Proposes Swine Fever Compensation
21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Don't ban our pork, Brown tells Europe
21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Minister Says Ban On UK Pork Would Be Unjustified
21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Diseased pigs 'may run wild'
21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever may lead to ban on bacon exports, admits Brown



18 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Salad on takeaways is linked to salmonella

By Jeremy Laurance and Andrew Buncombe

Independent ... Monday 18 September 2000


The salad in takeaway burgers and sandwiches is the prime suspect behind the surge in cases of salmonella typhimurium DT104 , a serious form of food poisoning that has caused one death and affected scores of people across the country.

Some 372 cases of the illness, which is resistant to treatment with antibiotics, had been identified between 1 August and 13 September - more than double the numer of cases in the same period last year. Seven people have been admitted to hospital and two developed septicaemia (blood poisoning). One , amiddle-aged man, died.

Cases are concentrated in the West Midlands and the North-west and are most common in people in their twenties, among the biggest consumers of fast food. However, cases have also been identified throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in all age groups, making the source of the illness difficult to trace.

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) said it was concentrating its investigations in the Midlands and the North-west after noting "particular microbiological features" that suggested the cases in those regions might be linked.

"The investigations indicate that people who had been ill were more likely than people who had not been ill to have eaten lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber in baguettes, sandwiches, burgers or kebabs eaten away from home or purchased from takeaways in the three days prior to onset of illness," the PHLS said.

Salmonella typhimurium DT104 started in cattle but spread to pigs, sheep, chicken and even household pets. Salad can be contaminated by manure and requires careful washing. However, the illness was not linked with salad prepared and eaten at home or that bought from any main supermarket chain or fast food outlet, the PHLS said.


17 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Symbolic gesture urged on eateries

James Meikle

Guardian ... Sunday 17 September 2000


Restaurants and fast food outlets are to be asked to help diners make the most of their meals by introducing symbols to highlight whether menu ingredients are organic , genetically modified , vegetarian , or potential allergens .

Officials at the government's food standards agency believe that extending the V for vegetarian symbol used by some eating establishments would be a simple and cheap way of providing more information.

Use of the additional letters O, GM and A is a possible way forward, although no decision has been made.

Such a measure would not be compulsory, although agency officials are prepared to exert considerable pressure. They will also warn eating establishments that they should give accurate information on the size of portions and the freshness of food. Research for the agency found that consumers were irritated by seeing enticing advertising and photographs behind counters that fail to correspond with the product sold them; this was found to be more annoying than any lack of information about GM ingredients and additives.

On Thursday the agency board is expected to agree an action plan that includes recommendations to tighten food labelling laws and forge voluntary agreements in areas such as advertising and promotion of children's food.

A review of labelling rules by the agency has concluded that they need to be "more closely attuned" to consumers' needs, and that there should be firmer controls on some claims, more explicit advice on use of labels , and clearer presentation on label information.

Much legal change has to be done through the European Union, but the agency wants GM labelling requirements to be extended to animal feed , new rules on "country of origin" claims, and compulsory nutrition regulations to replace voluntary declarations.

Ingredient listing must be extended to alcohol, says a report to the board. Efforts must be made to provide those with specific allergies or intoler ances with "clear, unambiguous information" about the presence of substances they may need to avoid.

Consumers want more information, too, on welfare standards and use of antibiotics for livestock, pesticides, and wax coatings on fruit and vegetables.

The package will provoke complaints from the catering and food manufacturing industry. The present legal requirement on restaurants to be able to inform customers, if asked, whether they have GM ingredients in food does not extend to putting information on menus. Even so, some have complained that it is difficult to comply because of variability in supply of foods and ingredients.


14 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Vets call for swine fever 'killing zones'

James Meikle

Guardian ... Thursday 14 September 2000


Vets called for the destruction of pigs on scores more East Anglian farms yesterday to fight the worsening swine fever outbreak, which they fear could still threaten the entire British pork industry.

They appealed to the government to introduce 3km killing zones around every farm where the disease has been confirmed - 12 so far with a further five suspected cases - to ensure that birds and wild animals did not help to spread the epidemic.

The Pig Veterinary Society said government controls, which include bans on moving pigs off neighbouring farms, were not enough to contain the disease. The society represents many vets working in Suffolk and Norfolk, and its drastic solution would cut a swathe through agriculture in the two counties. Swine fever is not regarded as dangerous to humans, but the society warned Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, there were parallels with the BSE crisis.

"Reluctance to spend enough money on aggressive control measures at the start of that problem led to vastly escalated costs as the epidemic grew out of control," it said.

The society is supported by the National Pig Association, representing the industry, but the Ministry of Agriculture, advised by its own vets, refused yesterday to change its compulsory slaughter policy, which has so far led to the destruction of 25,000 pigs .

These have been animals on the infected farms, on others regarded as "dangerous contacts" where there may have been transport links before the first case was identified last month, and on a handful of farms within a kilometre of a cluster of four infected farms near Woodbridge, Suffolk.

"We are not going to carry out slaughter for the sake of it", a ministry spokeswoman said yesterday. "If we think there is a risk, we slaughter, if we don't, we don't."

Farmers whose animals are compulsorily slaughtered get far more compensation than those who have healthy stock but cannot sell them.

Mark White, senior vice-president of the veterinary society, insisted: "We are not looking to farmers getting a few more bob. East Anglia is being strangled by restrictions and if any [swine fever] leaks out within East Anglia, that is bad enough. But if it leaks out into central England, the south-east or north-east of England, that would be total disaster ."


13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New Case Of Swine Fever Confirmed

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 13 September 2000


A 12th case of swine fever in East Anglia has been confirmed on a Suffolk farm where movement restrictions are in place.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the outbreak was within one kilometre of the discovery of the fourth case.

"We are urgently investigating how the fever got to these premises," she added.


13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Stop telling such porkies

by Allison Pearson

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 13 September 2000


Do I smell a rat? Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, announces that organic food is no safer or more nutritious than produce grown using chemicals.

His statement just happens to coincide with a period when things organic are enjoying unprecedented popularity and starting to pose a real threat to conventional producers . (Tesco, for example, has just announced that it is slashing 12 per cent off all organic products.)

Sir John's view was apparently backed up by an experiment commissioned by the BBC in which scientists tested supermarket carrots for pesticides.

All the results were negative. People who are paying higher prices for organic food are just buying an image, sniffed Sir John.

But are they? Five years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture advised people to peel their carrots . The impression I got at the time was that while carrots have always helped you see at night, the pesticide-treated variety might well make you glow in the dark.

Why bother warning the public to peel vegetables if spraying them with pesticides poses no threat to human health? My friend the scientist always buys organic. "The chemicals they spray on fruit and veg," she says, "are not that different from the stuff Saddam Hussein used to try and take out the Kurds." So watch out for that atomic tomato, folks.

No one can guess the long-term consequences of treating the nation's food with pesticides, just as no one knew what would happen if you fed cows with bits of dead cow. When herds started to get sick, the Government said there was no evidence that BSE could pass from beasts into humans. (Fingers crossed!) Sir John Krebs says there is "no evidence " that organic food is healthier than conventionally grown produce. (Fingers crossed!)

No evidence, that is, until 20 years down the road when our children start to succumb to mysterious neurological disorders and a pale man in a suit, swallowing hard, stands up in the Commons and says there's been a bit of an, um, misunderstanding.

After the BSE crisis, the public knew it could no longer rely on the Ministry of Agriculture to police food safety - it was like getting a pupil to mark his own exam.

The Food Standards Agency, of which Sir John is head, was set up instead. But the FSA gets much of its funding from food producers: how happy would they be if Sir John suddenly decided that organic carrots were better for us? Perhaps the only good consequence of the BSE crisis is that the public is simply not prepared to swallow arrogant and complacent reassurances about the quality of what we eat . Organic food is no longer the preserve of posh, paranoid hippies, but a swelling popular protest .

In our house, the grown-ups - already doomed after three decades of packet curries and other additive-riddled, pesticide-coated crap - stick with ordinary fruit and veg. The little ones eat organic. I prefer my babies not to be part of some experiment which may or may not poison them .

Tesco is to be congratulated for trying to make the most wholesome food available at an affordable price to all British people. And the Food Standards Agency should be ashamed of itself for not listening to what the consumer wants. When will they learn? When pigs fly, I guess. And grandchildren glow in the dark.


13 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Organic food sales set to mushroom

By Robin Young

Times ... Wednesday 13 September 2000


Sales of organic food could increase tenfold within a decade, it was forecast yesterday.

Carlo Leifert, director of the Organic Support Centre at Aberdeen University, said it was a conservative estimate that the 1 per cent of organic food presently eaten by Britons would increase to a tenth "five to ten years down the line".

Mr Leifert made the prediction as the supermarket chain Tesco announced plans to have at least 100 organic lines in all its stores. Tim Mason, its marketing director, estimated that customers would be buying 1 billion of organic produce at its stores by 2005.

"Demand is going through the roof , and this year will be remembered as the time when organic became mainstream . Customers want lots of organic, and all of us in the supply industry now need to work hard to deliver," he said. One in four Tesco customers is buying at least one item of organic food each month."

However, the National Farmers Union said that it would be impossible to meet the demand without increased Government funding.

"It would be detrimental to farmers if the Government did not help because then the greater demand would be met by more imports ," a spokesman said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said it had a "great commitment" to organic food and that funding for organic farmers had increased from 1 million in 1997 to 24 million last year. "We are going to put in 140 million in the next six years and that will start to become available early next year," a spokesman said. Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat MP who is promoting the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill, said: "Already three quarters of organic food in supermarkets is foreign . Governments have ignored investment and now we are reaping the painful consequence. Not only is our balance of food trade at risk but we cannot guarantee the quality control from overseas suppliers to the same extent as at home."


12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Teenagers hit by powerful food bug

Tim Radford, science editor

Guardian ... Tuesday 12 September 2000


Teenagers are being hit by a fast food superbug that has killed one victim and made 249 others ill, including seven now being treated in hospital, it was disclosed yesterday.

The salmonella strain, resistant to all commonly used antibiotics , has emerged mainly in the West Midlands, where 100 of the reported infections occurred. Government public health experts are trying to trace the source and establish what kind of food is spreading the infection, it was reported at the British Association's science festival in London.

The first reports of people falling victim to the germ were received between July 31 and August 17. Most of those affected have been teenagers and young adults. It is thought fast food is the cause.

Two cases of blood poisoning caused by the infection have occurred, including the victim who died.

Angus Nicoll, of the communicable disease surveillance centre of the public health laboratory service (PHLS), said: "We are currently in the middle of investigations to try to find out what is the vehicle, what food caused it, and those analyses are still under way.

"It is worrying that it is a multiply resistant salmonella . It is resistant to a number of antibodies, so that when people get septicaemia they are harder to treat."

There is always an increase in food-borne infections in summer. But overall, food hygiene standards have been rising.

"Although the levels of risk from food-borne diseases are considerably less than in the past, we do see serious outbreaks like this from time to time," Dr Nicoll said. "Because of modern food production, if something does get out, distribution methods can lead to a great spread of infection very quickly. There may be a number of different vectors but takeaway food is probably the most likely, given the age profile of those infected. It may have got into a particular food that has been widely distributed."

Food poisoning cases are on the increase. The PHLS has recorded 333 cases of a drug resistant strain of salmonella typhimurium since August 1, compared with 129 in the same period in 1999.

Dr Nicoll also spoke of the problems presented by diseases such as E coli 0157 , unknown until 1982, but now present in 30% of British herds, and the annual rise in HIV infections.

"These are the epidemics we know about," he said. "What is less certain are the infections that are new or are going to appear in the future. There have been at least 20 newly recognised or emergent pathogens in the past two decades."


12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - British Association: Teenagers struck by fast-food bug

By Robert Uhlig, David Derbyshire and Roger Highfield

Telegraph ... Tuesday 12 September 2000


An outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella , possibly spread through fast-food outlets, has killed one person and infected 332 others in six weeks, public health officials said yesterday. Most of the cases have been teenagers.

Investigators believe that small, independent restaurants and take-aways may be responsible. It is not believed to affect the large fast-food chains. "It has affected teenagers in particular. Because of the way food is distributed nowadays, infection spreads quickly and widely," said Dr Angus Nicoll, acting director of the Communicable Disease Centre, in London.

He said it was too early to say exactly where the infection had originated. "The age groups most affected - teenagers and young people - suggest it is likely to be take-away food or a widely distributed food." Figures released by the Public Health Laboratory Services yesterday showed that the 333 cases, all recorded between Aug 1 and Sept 8, were a three-fold increase on figures for the same period last year.

The PHLS is working with local public health colleagues and the Food Standards Agency to investigate the increase and to establish if there is a common source. Cases of salmonella typhimurium DT104 have occurred throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with clusters in Yorkshire and Cheshire. But almost one third, 99 cases, were in the West Midlands.

Dr Nicholl told the British Association Festival of Science at Imperial College, London: "Seven cases have been hospitalised, two with septicaemia; it has resulted in one death so far. It is a salmonella we have seen before but it is resistant to many antibiotics so it is harder to treat when they get septicaemia."

The death was the result of septicaemia, or blood poisoning, a rare but severe complication of salmonella infection. It was made more difficult, the PHLS said, because salmonella DT104 is resistant to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulphonamides, spectinomycin and tetracyclines .

From Aug 1 to Sept 8 last year 129 cases of DT104 were reported.

Since Aug 1 this year there have been 333 cases, of which 170 were by Aug 24.

Dr Sarah O'Brien, of the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said: "Salmonella cases increase over the summer. However, the fact that these 170 cases show resistance to exactly the same range of drugs does suggest that there may well be links."


12 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Deadly fast-food superbug strikes hundreds of youths

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent And Laura Peek

Times ... Tuesday 12 September 2000


Teenagers are being hit by a fast-food salmonella superbug that has already killed one victim and made 332 others ill.

Salmonella typhimurium DT104 is resistant to all commonly used antibiotics. Since the beginning of August, the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre has recorded 333 cases of the bug, compared with just 129 in the same period last year.

Cases are concentrated in the West Midlands, where at least 99 people have been struck down and one man has died. There have been two other smaller clusters of cases in Cheshire and Yorkshire.

Government public health experts are trying to trace the source of the bug and establish what kind of food is spreading it. Most of those affected have been teenagers and young adults and experts believe that this indicates that fast food is to blame.

News of the danger was disclosed by the Public Health Laboratory Service yesterday at the British Association Festival of Science at Imperial College, London.

Dr Angus Nicholl, acting director of the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said: "We are in the middle of investigations to try to find out what is the vehicle; what food caused it, and those analyses are still under way.

"It is worrying that it is a multiple-resistant salmonella. It is resistant to a number of antibodies, so that when people get septicaemia they are harder to treat."

He said the widespread distribution of commercially produced food meant that when a dangerous bug broke out a large number of people became infected very quickly.

Dr Nicholl said it was unlikely that a large fast-food outlet caused the epidemic, since the quality control of the big chains was so good. The culprit was more likely to be a small, independent restaurant or takeaway.

Working with the Food Standards Agency, PHLS officials were interviewing salmonella victims about where they had been and what they had eaten during the week before they fell ill. Their latest results indicated that many patients had eaten takeaway food hours before being struck down.

A spokeswoman for PHLS in London said: "The people who were ill were far more likely to have eaten takeaway food. The likelihood is that some food or foods supplied to takeaways was the source or sources of this particular outbreak in the West Midlands." Epidemiologists from the centre are trying to pinpoint the exact source of the bug.

The salmonella strain displays multiple resistance to common antibiotics, including ampicillin and streptomycin , making it difficult for doctors to treat effectively. All the cases attributed to the outbreak originated between July 31 and August 17.

Experts at the PHLS believe the bug is caused by a bacterium which started in cattle but spread to pigs, sheep, chicken and even household pets. The increasing use of antibiotics in animals is thought to be a cause .

Most infections cause no more than a case of diarrhoea but complications can develop. The patient who died in the West Midlands developed septicaemia food poisoning.


11 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Serious food-poisoning outbreak linked to teenagers eating fast food

By Steve Connor

Independent ... Monday 11 September 2000


Britain is in the throes of a food-poisoning outbreak caused by a strain of salmonella that is resistant to most of the common antibiotics used to control bacterial infections, a government scientist has confirmed.

Angus Nichol, acting director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre at the Public Health Laboratory Service in London, told the British Association conference yesterday that 265 people have contracted the illness since the start of August, with seven admitted to hospital, three with blood poisoning - one of whom has since died .

Only 97 cases were reported for the same period last year. "Most of them have been in teenagers and young adults. We're currently in the middle of investigations to try to find out what is the vehicle of that, what food caused it, and those analyses are still under way," Dr Nichol said.

The strain of salmonella is known as Salmonella typhimurium DT104, and it is resistant to six types of antibiotics, including streptomycin and tetracycline. "It's not a new salmonella; it's one that we've seen before. It is worrying that it is a multiply resistant salmonella , so that when people get septicaemia , they are harder to treat," Dr Nichol said.

Epidemiologists are trying to find out the cause of the outbreak and are concentrating on the West Midlands region, where 99 cases have been reported so far. The prevalence of children and teenagers among the figures suggests that it might be due to fast-food outlets.

"I think for this age group we are talking about takeaway foods ... The big manufacturers have not been found to be a problem in the past because their quality control is so good, it tends to be the smaller ones," he said.

"Although levels of risk for food-borne illnesses are considerably less than they were in the past because of improved food hygiene, and certainly most of the food processing that takes place in this country is very safe, where something goes wrong you have got an ability for quite a large number of people to become infected very quickly because of the way food is distributed.

"Takeaway foods can be the vector when it is as widespread as this, or it may have got into a particular food that is widely distributed. Until the analyses are done, I could not say which it is."


10 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Two new cases of swine fever reported

Staff Reporter

Press Association ... Sunday 10 September 2000


Two more cases of classical swine fever have been confirmed by the Government tonight, bringing the total number to 10 .

Ministry of Agriculture officials said the latest cases were reported in Norfolk and Suffolk. Both new outbreaks are in areas already subject to movement restriction orders, and appeared to be linked to the earlier cases.

More than 20,000 pigs on East Anglian farms have been slaughtered since the disease first emerged on August 8.

The original outbreak last month was the first of classical swine fever in the UK since 1986.

The disease poses no threat to human health but is highly contagious to pigs, with potentially disastrous economic consequences for farmers.

Farmers in East Anglia say the Government is not offering them enough compensation for the losses the disease has caused.

They also want Agriculture Minister Nick Brown to visit the region to see the extent of the problem for himself.


09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Meat meant for pet food 'supplied to restaurants'

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Independent ... Saturday 9 September 2000


Hundreds of tonnes of pet food was sold as meat fit for human consumption, causing a massive public health risk , a court was told yesterday.

A sophisticated distribution network generated profits running into millions of pounds by selling the heavily disguised pet food to butchers, market traders, restaurants, take-aways and supermarkets.

"The risk to public health from food poisoning organisms has been unquantifiable ," said Ben Nolan QC, for the prosecution, at Hull Crown Court. "The main fraud alleged here is a fraud on the consumer.

"It was operated over a period of about three years between 1993 and 1996. It had serious food safety implications . The Crown allege that the defendants devised and operated a system for selling meat - in the main poultry meat - as wholesome and edible when in truth it was condemned meat which was fit only for pet food ."

Seven people deny conspiracy to defraud businesses by selling poultry meat not fit for human consumption. They are: Clive Boid, of Oldcotes, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire; his son Andrew Boid, of Carlton in Lindrick, near Worksop; Darren Bibby, of Oldcotes; Peter Tantram, and his wife, Louise, of Ingham, Lincolnshire; Kevin Wilson, of Cleethorpes, Humberside; and Timothy Powell, of Hove, East Sussex.

The jury was told that pet food is a by-product of the food industry, which condemns a percentage of its meat as unfit for humans. "Once poultry is condemned, it can never lawfully be received back into the edible food chain," Mr Nolan said.

The jury was told that Clive and Andrew Boid, with Mr Bibby, were bosses at a company in Newark called Wells By-Products Ltd, which processed poultry meat for pet food. Its main customers were Spillers and Pedigree.

The court was told that Wells bought huge quantities of condemned poultry , which was packaged as pet food and invoiced to a company in Lincoln called Cliff Top Pet Foods.

Cliff Top - which was run by Mr and Mrs Tantram - cleaned up the meat before it was passed on to a man called John McGinty, who is not on trial.

Mr Nolan said Mr McGinty helped to change the product's identity from pet food to food and it was moved on again.

The jury was told that Mr Wilson and Mr Powell, both food brokers, then helped to sell the food on.

Mr Nolan said: "It is the Crown's case that Wilson and Powell knew full well the true origin of the product and therefore they were defrauding innocent purchasers, be they wholesalers, dealers and further down the line, retailers and consumers."

The jury was told the investigation that led to the case coming to court began in late 1995 when environmental health officers became suspicious about the source of poultry being sold by butchers in the Rotherham area. The investigation was taken over by South Yorkshire Police in 1998.

"The total amount of documentation obtained in this case now fills a large storeroom," Mr Nolan said. The trial is expected to take four months.


09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Rotting petfood 'sold for human consumption'

Martin Wainwright

Guardian ... Saturday 9 September 2000


Hundreds of tonnes of pet food were deliberately sold to restaurants, takeaways and food shops in a sophisticated scam involving three sets of middlemen, a court heard yesterday.

Lorryloads of poultry condemned as unfit for human consumption were palmed off as quality meat to butchers and supermarkets, a jury at Hull crown court was told.

Profits of millions of pounds were made by a gang, which tried out the system in a smaller con nicknamed the "Preston Sausage Fraud", Ben Nolan QC said. The "sophisticated network" hoodwinked suppliers until a mother defrosted rank, long-outdated sausages to cook for a children's party.

"The risk to public health from food poisoning organisms has been unquantifiable ," said Mr Nolan, who accused seven wholesale traders of creating a serious threat to food safety for more than three years. He said: "The defendants devised and operated a system for selling meat as wholesome and edible when in truth it was condemned".

Mr Nolan said of the party sausages case: "Because the sausage was frozen and the sell-by date read only December 25 with no year, it was assumed that this was a long-dated product."

Fortunately, when an Essex woman bought several packets for her children's party "her sense of smell told her they were off".

The seven, who all deny conspiracy to defraud by selling unfit poultry meat, are Clive Bold and his son Andrew, of Oldcotes near Worksop, Nottinghamshire; Darren Bibby , also of Oldcotes; Timothy Powell of Hove, East Sussex; Peter and Louise Tantram of Ingham, Lincolnshire, and Kevin Wilson of Cleethorpes, Humberside.

The court heard that pet food was a strictly regulated byproduct of the meat industry, supplied from portions condemned as unfit for humans and distributed and packaged separately. The Bolds and Bibby, said Mr Nolan, had bought "huge quantities of condemned birds" for their petfood company Wells By-products which were then passed on to the Tantrams, who cleaned up the meat at another pet food company, Cliff Top Pet Foods.

From there the chain led to a man called John McGinty, who is not on trial, and on - with petfood wrappings now replaced by ordinary food packaging - to food brokers Wilson and Powell. Mr Nolan said: "Wilson and Powell knew full well the true origin of the product and were defrauding innocent purchasers, be they wholesalers, dealers and - further down the line - retailers and consumers."

Wilson and Powell are also charged in connection with the sausage fraud, which led to 7,910 packets of frozen beef and cocktail sausages being offered for sale up to a year-and-a-half after their sell-by date. The court heard the method involved in the 1996 scam was "a microcosm of the poultry fraud in that the same systems and facilities were used".

The Bolds and the Tantrams are also charged with deceiving the petfood supplier Pedigree by supplying them with cheap turkey when the company had asked for fillets from the human food market to help the launch of a new premium catfood.

Mr Nolan said: "The price differential between petfood and edible turkey is considerable - Pedigree paid 192,000 for turkey which they could have bought for 34,000."

The trial continues.


09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Clue to pig fever culprit

James Meikle

Guardian ... Saturday 9 September 2000


Someone discarding salami or uncooked pork into outdoor pig paddocks is suspected of causing Britain's worst livestock crisis since BSE.

Government vets believe a traveller from Asia or Europe , or someone who bought an illegal import, may have tossed contaminated meat from a footpath near the breeding unit in Norfolk where the out break probably started. Alternatively, a bird may have scavenged the meat and carried it to the farm. The infection probably took hold in June although it was not formally identified until last month.

There was no evidence of infection from pigs, vehicles or people on other farms. On eight farms with swine fever, the stock has been slaughtered; hundreds of others are under movement restrictions.


09 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Petfood 'served up as fit for humans'

By Alex O'Connell

Times ... Saturday 9 September 2000


Hundreds of tonnes of condemned poultry fit only for petfood found its way on to Britain's dinner tables because of a multimillion-pound fraud, a court was told yesterday.

Butchers, market traders, restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets, including Asda, fell prey to the alleged scam between 1993 and 1996 in which the petfood was disguised as high-quality meat.

"The risk to public health from food-poisoning organisms has been unquantifiable ," Ben Nolan, QC, said in opening the case for the prosecution. The fraud netted millions of pounds in profits.

Seven people denied conspiracy to defraud businesses by selling poultry not fit for human consumption. They are Clive Boid, of Oldcotes, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and his son Andrew Boid, of Carlton in Lindrick, near Worksop; Darren Bibby, of Oldcotes; Peter Tantram and his wife Louise of Ingham, Lincolnshire; Kevin Wilson, of Cleethorpes, Humberside, and Timothy Powell, of Hove, East Sussex.

Clive and Andrew Boid, along with Mr Bibby, were bosses at a company called Wells By-Products Ltd, which processed poultry for petfood. The court heard that Wells bought condemned birds packaged ostensibly as petfood and invoiced to a Lincoln-based company. The produce was then assigned for human consumption before being sold again. Clive and Andrew Boid and Peter and Louise Tantram also deny conspiracy to sell petfood as fit for humans.

The trial continues.


07 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Hygiene ratings may be displayed in eating places

James Meikle

Guardian ... Thursday 7 September 2000


Britain's 550,000 eating places and food shops - from top hotels to hospital canteens and burger vans - might have to display hygiene scores to help customers choose whether to use them.

The ratings would be based on inspections by local council officials on compliance with health, safety, and food handling regulations.

The government's food standards agency is discussing the idea with consumer groups and environmental health bodies. Enthusiasts say scores would increase consumer power, and point to a US system of publishing information on food hygiene arrangements on visiting cruise ships as a model. This is said strongly to influence tourist bookings.

Food standards officials believe a system for publishing individual ratings could be added to new arrangements for local authority reporting of food poisoning incidents and hygiene standards within their areas.

These will mirror tougher inspection regimes and league tables already introduced by the government for schools and social services, and reflect government concern at the patchy nature of food hygiene enforcement.

They will be phased in from January if they are approved by the agency's board later this month. In addition, all food businesses will soon have to prove themselves worthy of holding licences to trade under EU rules which will take four years to introduce.

The Consumers' Association yesterday called on the public to help to combat the huge under-reporting of food poisoning cases. Only about 100,000 a year are formally recorded and it is believed the true figure could be 4.5m in England alone. As many as 60 people a year may die.

Ann Goodwin, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which is also involved in the discussions on hygiene scores, said: " Why not inform consumers? Then they can vote with their feet."

She said there was no reason why a voluntary scheme could not be introduced quickly once a national framework was agreed, even if formal regulation might take longer. "What would businesses have to hide?"

The agency is already planning big increases in information local councils have to provide so it can compare the performance of different types of shops, restaurants and other food outlets in different areas, even if these would not be individually named at present. These tables will be published and agency officials will also inspect councils' environmental health departments and demand improvements where necessary.

Tom Murray, head of the agency's local authority enforcement division, confirmed the publication of individual ratings was being considered carefully but there were difficulties to overcome. "Any system we put together would have to be objective and robust and applied consistently."

Businesses might just be having a bad day when inspected. Should new owners or managers have to display poor ratings from previous management? Such arrangements could not be put in place over a couple of months when there were so many food businesses, in more than 500 local authorities.


06 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Why is the Food Standards Agency so hostile to organics?

Lawrence Woodward

Guardian ... Wednesday 6 September 2000


The Food Standards Agency has just produced what it presents as a balanced paper on organic food, suggesting there is little difference between organic and conventional food. However, this paper says more about the wobbles within the agency than it does about organic farming.

First, it is curiously researched. It states emphatically that there is not enough information to say there are nutritional differences between organic and conventionally produced food. Yet it bases this on a 10-year-old Ministry of Agriculture study that was so flawed their organic farming unit shelved it years ago .

The paper also does not mention a review of more than 150 investigations comparing the two forms referenced in last year's House of Lords report on organic farming. This confirmed that there was a trend towards more nutritionally desirable components (such as vitamins) and fewer undesirables (such as nitrates) in organic vegetables. In animal feed trials, a preference was also shown for organic feed.

Nor does it refer to a recent Food Administration Organisation report which concluded: "It has been demonstrated that organically produced foods have lower levels of pesticide and veterinary drug residues and, in many cases, lower nitrate contents. Animal feeding practices followed in organic livestock production also lead to a reduction in contamination of food products of animal origin."

The agency rejects claims that organic produce is more likely to contain pathogens and toxins but qualifies it by saying "at present".

The paper is even more grudging about the single biggest difference between organic and conventional produce and the one that means most to consumers - the difference in levels of pesticide residues . It does not mention that between 40 and 60% of conventional fruit and vegetables sold in the UK contain pesticide residues (albeit usually below permitted maximum limits). On the other hand, samples of organic produce very infrequently show traces of pesticide residue (always below maximum limits ), and can usually be traced to such things as poorly cleaned transport or general contaminating spray drift.

The paper maintains that residues in food are harmless despite the dearth of information about the risks of frequent exposure to low-level doses and mixtures of pesticides. However, it argues that there may be a potential risk from organic foods because there is not enough information about the possible presence of natural toxins.

The agency stressed that it wanted to clear up some unfounded concerns over the risks of E coli contamination and natural toxins.

So what went wrong? Maybe the researchers found it difficult working in a politically sensitive area, or the final version of the paper was written by someone with a different agenda .

My concern is not for the organic sector: growing numbers of people are choosing food that generally contains lower levels of nitrates, virtually no pesticide residues and is grown in an environmentally benign way.

I thought a new food agency would look at food and health in a new way , linking production, food quality and health.

Judging by this paper none of that is happening. It seems that the Food Standards Agency has not developed a challenging culture or voice. The old ministry of agriculture line that the food production process has no bearing on nutrition and health remains intact, as does the basis of conventional agriculture that pesticide residues in food are harmless. Even worse is that there seems to have been no change in their old habit of using research selectively to protect the conventional status quo and to raise doubts about alternatives.

- Lawrence Woodward is the director of Elm Farm research centre


05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - Farmers' anger mounts over pig disease curbs

James Meikle

Guardian ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Many pig farmers in East Anglia were said to be facing financial ruin last night as the government introduced new controls to stop the spread of swine fever through the region.

A new case was confirmed on a farm at Topcroft in south Norfolk, following blood tests there last Thursday, and pig industry sources said blood tests at another farm were believed to be "suspicious".

About 1,000 pigs on the newly identified farm will be slaughtered over the next two days. Several neighbouring farms that had so far escaped bans on animals moving off the sites for fattening or to be killed for food will now join hundreds of others already unable to sell their stock.

Some of these are now likely to face restrictions well into October, having already suffered weeks of hardship.

The government is paying 35 per pig in compensation, just under a third of what farmers say they have lost in market value, extra feed and additional welfare costs.

The new case means there is little chance of a further easing of EU bans on live pig exports from East Anglia when commission vets meet in Brussels today. There had been hopes of some relaxation because there had been no new cases of swine fever confirmed since August 12. Six farms have now had infected pigs.

About 12,500 pigs from the other five have already been slaughtered . In addition, the government is shipping thousands more for slaughter from farms under movement controls to stop overcrowding.

Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said: "These measures are needed to protect the industry as a whole."

His department said that so far the decisions of EU vets had been proportionate to the risks from the disease. The government could not bail out farmers for business losses, but only for extra feed and welfare requirmenets caused by the outbreak.

Ian Campbell, regional manager of the National Pig Association, said: "This is disastrous news. There is going to be nothing positive coming out of the [commission] meeting now." He said farmers were being put under intolerable pressure by the "cheese-paring and penny-pinching" of government ministers.

Stephen Mills, whose farm at Garboldisham, Norfolk, is under restrictions, sent 122 pigs for slaughter yesterday because he had no room for them. He said: "This government is handling this as badly as the last one handled BSE."


05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New Swine Fever Case On Suffolk Farm

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


A further case of classical swine fever has been confirmed on a farm in East Anglia.

It brings to seven the total number of confirmed cases in the region since August 8, when the outbreak of the disease was first detected. Five thousand pigs on the Suffolk farm will have to be slaughtered within the next two days.

The announcement comes hours after EU veterinary experts in Brussel lifted a ban on pig exports from Essex on September 15, but kept bans in Suffolk and Norfolk.

The latest discovery in Suffolk means the area where there is a potential risk of infection has had to be extended, as of 6pm today.

It means new farms will be subject to restrictions on the movements of their animals.


05 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New case of swine fever is confirmed

By Amanda Brown

Independent ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Another case of swine fever has been confirmed on a farm in Norfolk - the first since 12August, the Government said yesterday.

The farm is in one of the current surveillance zones in the county and the Ministry of Agriculture said there were various possible links to the previous cases currently being investigated. About 1,000 pigs on the farm will be slaughtered in the next couple of days.

A further infected area was being designated yesterday, much of which overlaps an existing infected area. As a result, several farms at the edge of the previous area will be placed under restriction. Many others may face curbs for longer than previously envisaged.

Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, said: "This shows the importance of the infected areas and testing procedures because of the incubation period of the disease. These measures are necessary to protect the industry as a whole."

Mr Brown was due to meet representatives of the National Farmers' Union and the National Pig Association last night at their request to discuss the economic consequences of the restrictions on movement.

The latest cases have been reported to the European Commission and will be discussed today at a meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee.

The Conservative agriculture spokesman, James Paice, wrote to Mr Brown yesterday, urging the minister to increase compensation payments, from 35 to 37, to pig farmers who have had restrictions placed on their businesses.


04 Sep 00 - Food Safety - New swine fever case confirmed

by PA News

Evening Standard ... Monday 4 September 2000


Another case of classical swine fever has been confirmed on a farm in Norfolk, the Government said today.

The farm is in one of the current surveillance zones in the county and the first case to be confirmed since August 12.

The Ministry of Agriculture said there were various possible links to the previous cases currently being investigated, and about 1,000 pigs on the farm would be slaughtered in the next couple of days.

A further infected area was being brought into place much of which overlaps an existing infected area.

As a result, a number of farms at the edge of the previous area will be placed under restriction.

Many others may face curbs for longer than previously envisaged.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said: "This shows the importance of the infected areas and testing procedures because of the incubation period of the disease.

"These measures are necessary to protect the industry as a whole."

Mr Brown said he would be meeting representatives from the National Farmers Union and the National Pig Association tonight, at their request to discuss the economic consequences of the movement restrictions.

The current circumstances have been reported to the Commission and will be discussed tomorrow at the regular meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee.

Shadow Agriculture spokesman James Paice MP has today written to Mr Brown urging him to increase compensation payments from 35 to 37, to pig farmers who had curbs placed on their businesses as a result of the swine fever outbreak.


30 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Japan food scare

Associated Press

Guardian ... Wednesday 30 August 2000


The initial shock was bad enough. Not only had Japan's biggest dairy company sickened nearly 15,000 people with contaminated milk , it had routinely - though secretly - recycled old milk to make other products.

But what has followed is enough to ruin anyone's appetite: dead lizards in potato chips, worms in pastries, flies in canned juice. Barraged for week with such daily horror stories, many Japanese are wondering if it's safe to eat or drink anything anymore.

``Every day we hear about some new problem, and it's shocking,'' said Tokyo housewife Toshie Ojima. ``But these things were probably happening all along and we just didn't know about it.''

Concerns over food safety have grown so strong they are now being debated on the parliament floor.

``Many of the incidents are the result of sloppiness and complacency,'' Deputy Health Minister Yutaka Fukushima said at a recent parliamentary meeting. ``Manufacturers should return to the very basic and think again about food safety.''

Food makers aren't the only problem. The media has been dominated recently by reports that another big brand name - Mitsubishi Motors - hid consumer complaints for years instead of examining whether their vehicles had potential dangers.

``It is enough to really make one wonder,'' said a front-page editorial in the Asahi, one of Japan's largest newspapers. ``Consumer trust in corporate sincerity is growing shakier.''

The food scare began in late June, when some 14,800 people were sickened by staph bacteria in lowfat milk produced by Snow Brand Milk Products Co.

An investigation revealed the company routinely recycled milk returned from stores , including some with expired freshness dates, for use in cheese and other products.

Since then, the discovery of any foreign object in food or drink has been enough to prompt huge recalls.

So far this month, at least 18 cases of food contamination led to recalls, according to the state-funded Japan Food Hygiene Association. These included by Kikkoman Corp.'s recall of 25,300 cans of Del Monte-brand tomato sauce and 36,000 jars of pasta sauce after broken glass was found in one. Yakult Honsha Co. had to recall 446,800 cans of fruit juice after one was found to contain a shard of plastic .

Such stories are taking their psychological toll.

A recent survey published by the nation's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri, showed more than half of 1,983 respondents are afraid they or their family members may suffer food poisoning before the summer is out.

Some 45 percent indicated they don't trust manufacturers' hygiene standards and nearly 54 percent said they believe even drinking tap water is unsafe.

Still, Kazuya Fujiwara, spokesman for Japanese Consumers' Cooperative Union, one of Japan's largest food distributors, said food contamination is not on the rise. It is merely getting more attention.

``The Snow Brand case only triggered the existing problem of food contamination to become a social issue,'' he said. ``It is a reminder to consumers of the abundant dangers of what they eat.''

Just four years ago, for example, food contaminated with E. coli bacteria claimed 12 lives and sickened more than 10,000 people in Japan. Most of the victims were children and the elderly, who have less resistance to bacterial infections.

Fujiwara said the problem cannot be solved unless the government adopts stricter legal protections for consumers.

And many analysts familiar with Japan's corporate system see the recent food contamination cases - and the Mitsubishi Motors scandal - as the inevitable result of lax concern for consumers.

``Very basic principles of manufacturing are falling apart at many companies in various industries,'' Keio University business professor Keinosuke Ono wrote in the recent issue of the Weekly Toyo Keizai magazine, a respected economic journal.

``These cases remind us of the considerable lack of responsibility and commitment among corporations,'' he wrote.

A slew of high-profile incidents involving food and drink contamination are creating an uproar in Japan. Here are some recent examples:

---

BAD MILK : Lowfat milk produced by Snow Brand Milk Products Co., Japan's largest dairy products maker, sickened nearly 14,800 people in western Japan because of staph germ contamination. The company shut down operations at 20 factories nationwide from late June to early August for government inspection. But despite a recent go-ahead, this week it was forced to issue another recall, for powdered skim milk.

---

LIZARD CHIPS : Japan's top snack food maker, Calbee, was forced to temporarily close one of its plants this month after a dead lizard was found inside a bag of garlic butter-flavored potato chips. Company president Masahiko Matsuo apologized and recalled 62,000 bags distributed in Tokyo and several nearby cities.

---

BUG IN A BUN : Yamazaki Baking Co., the nation's top baked- goods producer, recalled 700,000 cups of pudding in July after consumers complained of a sour taste and smell caused by excessive levels of lactic-acid bacteria and yeast. Yamazaki also recalled 17,000 moldy potato curry sandwiches . And Yamazaki was back in the headlines this week, when a quarter-inch-long bug was found in one of its custard cream buns.

---

SMELLY CHEESE : Hokkaido Hidaka Nyugyo voluntarily recalled 280,000 packs of mozzarella cheese from supermarkets nationwide after consumers complained of foul odor caused by excessive fermentation triggered by hot weather. No toxins or germs were found.


28 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Vaccine under scrutiny after deaths

Steven Morris

Guardian ... Monday 28 August 2000


The safety of the meningitis immunisation programme came under scrutiny yesterday when it emerged that 11 people have died following injections.

Health officials insisted the deaths were not connected to the injection and maintained the programme was completely safe but the handling of the issue was criticised .

Since the immunisation programme began last year, more than 16,000 "adverse reactions" to the vaccine have been reported to the medicines control agency.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said two of the 11 had heart conditions , two died of group B meningitis - for which there is no vaccine - and one of a convulsion 10 days after the injection . The six others died of cot death .

She added that the number of adverse reactions - which can range from a minor headache to death - was not unusual for the scale of the programme, the first in Europe.

Officials from the Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis Trust said they were certain that immunisation was saving lives.

The shadow health secretary, Liam Fox, said he was angry that no minister had come forward to quell public anxiety. "If the public suspects that the government is withholding information, there is a danger they will lose confidence in the programme. The only way to dispel this is for a minister to say there is no basis for it.

"Instead they are hiding behind civil servants. That is stupid and cowardly. Ministers are paid take responsibility."

John Fletcher, of the vaccination campaign group, Justice Awareness Basic Support, said: "They always say there is no problem. Parents need to have all the information so they can make a balanced judgement.

"We have had many calls from parents whose children have suffered adverse reactions and believe the programme was introduced too quickly. In effect, ordinary people are the guinea pigs."


25 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Organic foods 'not more nutritious'

James Meikle

Guardian ... Friday 25 August 2000


The debate over the benefits of organic foods took a new twist yesterday after the government's food standards agency played down suggestions that they were healthier than conventionally grown alternatives.

Despite 40% a year increases in sales of organic produce, worth about 540m last year, the agency said there was no evidence to suggest it was safer or more nutritious. But claims that organic crops were more prone to toxins were disputed in a paper the agency described as "balanced".

The Soil Association, a standard bearer for the organic movement, was disappointed by the agency paper.

Advocates of organics have argued that food grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides must be healthier while critics have said they may be more risky because of naturally occurring infections and because of the liberal use of cow dung.

The agency said: "There is not enough information available at present to be able to say that organic foods are significantly different in terms of their safety and nutritional content... '

"A varied and balanced diet which includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods should provide all the nutrients that a healthy individual requires, regardless of whether the individual components are produced by organic or conventional methods," the report continued.

Comparisons had proved difficult in a government study into nutritional composition of organic and conventionally-grown fruit and vegetables 10 years ago.

Research from Copenhagen University this year suggesting higher levels of nutrients in organic foods had only looked at one small component - polyphenols - in a few foods.

There was also insufficient evidence that organic produce was likely to cause more food poisoning. Most illnesses appeared to be caused by viruses which would not have originated from animal waste used as fertiliser.

Similarly the idea that organics were more prone to toxins from mould had not been conclusively proved.

A spokesman for the agency said its stance might change as more information became available. "Organic foods are a constant source of questions and worries so we felt we ought to put a position paper on our website."

Henry Hathaway, of the Soil Association, said the agency should be seeking to join European research into the benefits of organics.

"We don't think it has taken into account the cumulative effects of a daily mixture of pesticides and veterinary medicines people are eating. The issue has not yet been adequately investigated scientifically," he said.


25 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Salmonella superbug hits 170 in three weeks

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

Independent ... Friday 25 August 2000


A surge in cases of a serious form of salmonella food poisoning , which has caused one death and affected scores of people across the country, is being investigated by public health specialists.

In the first three weeks of August, experts identified 170 cases of Salmonella typhimurium DT104, which is resistant to treatment with antibiotics , double the number in the same period last year. Cases are concentrated in the West Midlands, where 56 patients are affected, but they have occurred throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Public Health Laboratory Service is interviewing patients to establish if there is a common link between the cases. Most infections cause no more than a bad case of diarrhoea but complications can develop. One patient has died after developing septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Salmonella is transmitted from hand to mouth. The best way to avoid the infection is to wash hands after touching raw meat or sitting down to eat, to keep raw and cooked foods apart and to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly before being eaten .


23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Europe scales down ban on pigs

By David Lister

Times ... Wednesday 23 August 2000


English farmers were granted a significant reprieve yesterday after the European Commission agreed to scale down a ban against exports of live pigs, raising hopes that the industry will be able to stage a swift recovery after the first outbreak of swine fever for 14 years.

Meeting in emergency session in Brussels, the EU's standing veterinary committee voted unanimously to restrict the ban to pig exports from Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk - the three counties where cases of the disease have been confirmed. The recommendation was endorsed immediately by the Commission.

The new embargo will replace a ban on live pig exports from the whole of England and will come into effect later this week.

It will be reviewed at the next meeting of the standing veterinary committee, which includes an expert from each of the EU's 15 member states, early next month.

The National Pig Association said that it was extremely pleased by the decision, which it said was a clear vindication of the precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the disease.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that the move should allow a speedy recovery of the industry, which exports swine worth 12.5 million to the EU every year.

However, there were few signs that either the United States or Canada were preparing to relax their own bans, which cover exports of meat products and live pigs.

A total of 12,000 pigs have been slaughtered since the outbreak of the disease was confirmed earlier this month but there have been no cases discovered outside of East Anglia and no confirmed cases since August 12.


23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Pig export ban lifted in most areas

By Andy McSmith and Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 23 August 2000


The European Commission's ban on the export of live pigs and pig semen from England was lifted yesterday for all but three counties in East Anglia.

The decision was taken unanimously by the EC's Standing Veterinary Committee in Brussels after Jim Scudamore, Britain's chief vet, explained the measures that had been taken to contain the highly infectious swine fever in the two weeks since an outbreak was discovered.

There are five confirmed cases in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Seven other farms have been cleared, but tests have to be completed in about another 30 . Mr Scudamore said he could not predict when the disease would eventually disappear from East Anglia as the incubation period could last up to 21 days.

The ban on exports, worth 30 million a year, was imposed on Aug 14. The EU committee will meet again on Sept 5 and may decide then to lift the ban for the whole of East Anglia.

Pig breeders' representatives are due to meet the Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, today to discuss compensation for those hit by the ban. Mr Brown said the talks would cover those whose farms were indirectly hit as well as those directly affected. He said: "I am delighted that the Commission and EU member states have reduced the ban.

"These decisions demonstrate that Maff [the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food] was right to take the precautionary approach which was essential to stop the disease in its tracks and confirm the benefits of the constructive approach we have adopted towards our partners in the European Union. My department will continue to take every step to eradicate this disease."

John Godfrey, chairman of the National Pig Association, said: "It's a vote of confidence to what has been happening with British vets. They have done a tremendous job."

But Tim Yeo, shadow agriculture minister, said: "The worst is not yet over for some farmers. The urgent task is for Nick Brown to deal with farmers in surveillance zones for whom compensation has not been clarified."


23 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Minister Proposes Swine Fever Compensation

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Wednesday 23 August 2000


Agriculture Minister Nick Brown says he is putting forward plans for the government to compensate pig farmers in the wake of the swine fever crisis.

The move came after four hours of talks at the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters in London between Mr Brown and farm leaders. The European Union partially lifted its ban on the export of live English pigs and pig semen yesterday.

Animals from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, however, remain subject to curbs following the outbreak of the disease in East Anglia at the start of the month. Now the minister has pledged to forge ahead with two schemes to help struggling farmers.

He said in a statement: "I am aiming to introduce next week a welfare disposal scheme under which animals at the top end of the weight and age range of the production cycle will be taken off farms and slaughtered and their carcasses rendered.

"The Government would meet the cost of this. The question of compensation to farmers affected by movement restrictions also needs to be considered. I recognise that welfare management carries a cost.

"Any support measures will need to be carefully discussed by both the UK, the Treasury and the European Commission. However, I am determined that our producers shall receive comparable treatment to pig farmers in other European states for disease outbreaks on a similar scale."

John Godfrey, chairman of the National Pig Association, told reporters after the meeting that he believed the outbreak was now under control.

Seven farms have been cleared of swine fever but tests remain to be completed on around 30 more. However, a decision to lift the ban for the whole of the region could be made at the next EU veterinary meeting on September 5.">

22 Aug 00 - Food Safety - EU pig export ban limited to East Anglia

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Tuesday 22 August 2000


European veterinary experts today voted to reduce the scope of a ban on English pig exports to East Anglia, where the outbreak of swine fever was first detected.

"The ban stays in place, but the reference to England is replaced by the three counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk," an EU official said after a meeting of EU senior veterinary officials.

Swine fever, a contagious virus which is not dangerous to humans, has been found in pigs at five different locations in East Anglia. The discovery prompted the European Commission to impose a ban on all English exports on August 14.

The government's chief veterinary officer attended the talks in Brussels amid hopes the spread of swine fever has been contained.

Yesterday it was announced that four more farms had been by cleared by scientists investigating the outbreak.

The Ministry of Agriculture said that the results of tests at two farms in Suffolk, one in Kent and one in Lincolnshire had all proved negative. Seven farms have been cleared since the disease was first reported at the beginning of this month.

But there are still tests to be completed on about 30 more farms and more suspected cases may be reported.

The agriculture minister, Nick Brown, had warned that there was no justification for Brussels to ban English pork and bacon following the first outbreak of swine fever in the UK for 14 years.

Pig farmers had hoped the EU experts would reduce the scope of the present ban to August 31 if the government could show that the outbreak had been contained.

Earlier Mr Brown told Radio 4's Today programme that he did not want to "set deadlines" on resolving the issue. But he added: "We are doing everything we can to eliminate this as quickly as possible."


21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Don't ban our pork, Brown tells Europe

By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Monday 21 August 2000


Nick Brown urged the European Union yesterday not to impose an export ban on British pork and bacon following the outbreak of classic swine fever.

Although he acknowledged that further restrictions could be imposed, the Agriculture Minister said they would not be justified. EU veterinary experts will meet tomorrow to review the ban on live pig exports already in place and to consider whether further measures could be necessary.

Swine fever has been confirmed at five farms in East Anglia and yesterday there were movement restrictions on another 38 farms where the disease was suspected. The results of tests from some of these farms are due today.


21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Minister Says Ban On UK Pork Would Be Unjustified

Press Association

Guardian ... Monday 21 August 2000


Agriculture Minister Nick Brown believes there is no justification for Brussels to ban British pork and bacon following the first outbreak of swine fever in the UK for 14 years.

European Union veterinary experts are due to meet on Tuesday to review the ban imposed on the export of live pigs and pig semen after the deadly disease was confirmed on five farms in East Anglia.

Pig farmers are hoping the veterinary committee will reduce the scope of the present ban if the Government can show the outbreak has been contained.

However, Mr Brown acknowledged that the committee could respond to the latest crisis to hit the beleaguered agriculture industry by stepping up the restrictions and barring British pig meat . He told the BBC: "It is a possible outcome, but it isn't justified by what we know at the moment."

He believed the EU's reaction to the outbreak so far had been "reasonable and proportionate" and he urged it to continue to take a fair line towards British farmers.

Although there have been no new confirmed cases today, Mr Brown is still awaiting the outcome of further scientific tests before they can be sure the spread of the disease has been halted.

He is hopeful that the results of the tests - which are expected either today or tomorrow - will prove negative. "I hope that we have got it contained and that we have nipped this in the bud," he said.

But Mr Brown ruled out a wider financial package to help the agricultural industry as a whole out of its current difficulties.

Apart from the five farms where the disease has been confirmed, movement restrictions have been imposed on 38 farms around England where there have been suspected cases.

The Tories say Mr Brown appears to be backtracking on assurances regarding compensation given to pig farmers at a meeting on Friday. Shadow Agriculture Minister Tim Yeo said: "Nick Brown's dismissive attitude towards compensation for farmers in the surveillance zone, whose businesses are faced with destruction, threatens to cause further distress to cash-strapped farmers."


21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Diseased pigs 'may run wild'

By Steve Bird

Times ... Monday 21 August 2000


Farmers could abandon their holdings, leaving thousands of pigs to roam as the swine fever crisis continues, the Government was warned yesterday.

Many farms have reached bursting point as the backlog of pigs not taken to market or slaughter causes intolerable overcrowding, the National Pig Association (NPA) said.

Five farms in East Anglia have been confirmed as having the disease and tests are being carried out at more than 30 others where livestock have shown symptoms.

Ian Campbell, the NPA's regional manager, said that the Government's attempts to contain the disease could be scuppered if the animals were abandoned .

"It's now very grim ," he said. "Reasonable, sensible people whom I've known for many years are now approaching the point where, frankly, they could do anything. There is a very real danger not just of a human calamity but of a serious disease risk.

"Our aim must be to provide sympathy and support to help those farmers who are at breaking point to stay on their farms and keep looking after their pigs, however difficult that is."

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, warned the European Union yesterday not to extend the ban on importing live pigs to pork and bacon products. He has ruled out a wider financial package to help agriculture out of its present difficulties.


21 Aug 00 - Food Safety - Swine fever may lead to ban on bacon exports, admits Brown

By Sarah Schaefer, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Independent ... Monday 21 August 2000


British pig farmers could face an EU ban on exports of pork and bacon because of the swine fever outbreak, Nick Brown, the Minister for Agriculture admitted yesterday.

The EU has already banned exports of live pigs from England after cases of swine fever were confirmed on farms in East Anglia.

It has been the first outbreak of the devastating disease in Britain in 14 years.

The EU veterinary committee is due to meet in Brussels tomorrow to review the ban.

Pig farmers are still hoping the committee will decide to reduce the scope of the present ban, which runs to 31 August, if the Government shows the outbreak has been contained.

Mr Brown told BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost programme that a further ban was a "possible outcome" but insisted such a move was unnecessary and would be resisted.

He said he believed the EU's reaction to the outbreak so far had been "reasonable and proportionate" and he urged it to continue to take a fair line towards British farmers.

Although there had been no new confirmed cases yesterday, Mr Brown said he was still awaiting the outcome of further scientific tests before the Government could be sure the spread of the disease had been halted.

He said he was hopeful the results of the tests, expected today, would prove negative.

"If that is the case we will have a much better idea that this is confined to the existing farms. But I cannot say that with certainty this morning," he said, "I hope that we have got it contained."

Apart from the five farms where the disease has been confirmed, movement restrictions have been imposed on 38 farms around England where there had been suspected cases.

Mr Brown acknowledged that those farmers who were the subject of movement restrictions - unlike those where the disease had been confirmed - were not currently entitled to Government compensation.

However, he said he would need EU permission for any "special measures" he wanted to bring in to help them.

He said: "I am determined that farmers in this country, in the same circumstances, are treated in exactly the same way that they were in Germany and Holland when there were similar outbreaks."

But he ruled out a wider financial package to help the agriculture industry out of its current difficulties.

"The one thing I cannot do is buy out with public money the cyclical problems of the agriculture sector," he said.

The Tories accused Mr Brown of backtracking on assurances over compensation given to pig farmers.

Tim Yeo, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, said: "Nick Brown's dismissive attitude towards compensation for farmers in the surveillance zone, whose businesses are faced with destruction, threatens to cause further distress to cash-strapped farmers."