Document Directory

08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Cardiff pensioner died after 20-hour flight to Australia
08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Britain is warned over uranium shell tests
08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Airlines sued over economy-class syndrome
08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - US call to ban cigarette sales
07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Scotland's BSE?
07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - MPs favour mass slaughter of badgers to combat TB in cattle
07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon farmers braced for clampdown on toxins
07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - A leap in the dark
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Woman dies after 9-hour flight
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - One in three hospital wards 'filthy'
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Holiday tattoo gives girl life-long allergy
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Error in salmon study undermines toxin claims
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Call for action on planes' air quality
06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Woman dies after long-haul flight
05 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Tobacco firms in row over film ban
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: Success of £300m industry has come at a price
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Man sues phone firm over mobile mast next door
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: King of fish contaminated by chemicals
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: Balance risks against benefits
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Sharp rise in number of overweight children raises health fears
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Health fear over farmed salmon
depleted uranium">04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Fears Grow About depleted uranium
04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmed salmon 'contaminated'

08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Cardiff pensioner died after 20-hour flight to Australia

By Lewis Smith

Times- Monday 8 January 2001

A British pensioner who died within days of reaching Australia after a long-haul flight, may have fallen victim to so-called "economy class syndrome".

Thomas Lamb, 68, from Cardiff, began to feel unwell as the 20-hour flight from London to Melbourne came to an end. He died in hospital a few days later after falling into a coma.

Yesterday his family spoke of their anger at his death from Deep Vein Thrombosis and said that they were planning legal action against Singapore Airlines.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), has been dubbed "economy class syndrome" because of the number of passengers in the cheaper sections of long-haul flights who allegedly fall victim to the condition. It is believed to be caused by long periods of cramped inactivity which can lead to blood clots forming in the body, although no definite link has yet been established.

Mr Lamb, a retired electrician, died on November 10, having fallen ill on October 24, but details of his death were only disclosed yesterday. He is one of a number of air passengers who have died from DVT in recent months. A businesswoman from North Wales died after a flight from San Francisco to Heathrow last week.

Linda Jones, 38, one of Mr Lamb's daughters, said: "Somebody is responsible and they have to be held to account. My father was full of life, he had another 20 years in him." She said the airline did offer medical advice to passengers but not about DVT. Singapore Airlines was unavailable for comment yesterday.

08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Britain is warned over uranium shell tests

By Michael Smith, Christian Jennings and Alex Todorovic

Telegraph- Monday 8 January 2001

The United Nations team monitoring radiation in Kosovo gave warning yesterday that material from depleted uranium ammunition had affected the groundwater, raising fears of similar contamination in Britain.

The Ministry of Defence was under pressure last night to review its position on depleted uranium ammunition after The Telegraph revealed that such rounds had been used at a number of British training grounds.

The MoD said it had no plans to change its view that there was "no cause for concern" and no need to screen members of the armed forces who had served in the Balkans. The ministry said depleted uranium rounds had been fired into the sea at the Kirkcudbright test range on the Solway Firth and at targets on land at Eskmeals, Cumbria.

Initial inquiries suggested no depleted uranium rounds had been fired at Lulworth, Dorset, but the MoD was not yet able to rule this out. Analysis of test firings showed "no significant risk to marine life, members of the public or site personnel", it said.

But Pekka Haavisto, the former Finnish environment minister who heads the UN Environment Programme team in Kosovo, said the water supply there was thought to be contaminated. He said: "There remains a risk for the local population. Much ammunition is deep in the ground and affects the groundwater."

Mr Haavisto said that, using research on which the MoD based its belief that there is "minimal risk" to anyone who comes into contact with depleted uranium, his team had been surprised at radiation levels in Kosovo. He and his team have tested a sample 11 sites of 112 named by Nato as having been attacked with depleted uranium rounds and had found significantly increased radiation at eight of them.

He said: "We found some radiation in the middle of villages where children were playing. We were surprised to find this a year and a half later. There were cows grazing in contaminated areas, which means the contaminated dust can get into the milk."

The UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre, which co-ordinates mine clearance in Kosovo, said it was banned from entering sites attacked with depleted uranium because of the risk. The New York Times reported yesterday that an American Department of Transportation warning on the use of depleted uranium appeared to conflict with Pentagon research that concluded there was little risk.

depleted uranium is used to provide balance in some aircraft and the Department of Transportation has issued a strong warning to personnel who might be called on to handle it. "If particles are inhaled or ingested, they can be chemically toxic and cause a significant and long-lasting irradiation of internal tissue," it said.

The Commons Defence Committee said at the weekend that it would be summoning defence ministers to discuss the issue further. The committee said in May that the MoD appeared to be "adopting a reactive approach and responding to new developments only when forced to by events".

The MoD's inaction contrasts sharply with attitudes elsewhere in Europe. In Italy, where seven soldiers who served in the Balkans have died of cancer, Giuliano Amato, the Prime Minister, said: "We've always known it was a danger in exceptional circumstances. Now we are starting to have a justified fear that things are not that simple."

Boza Ljubic, the Bosnian Health Minister, said cancer and leukemia deaths among civilians there were rising sharply, with 230 cases of cancer per 100,000 people recorded last year, up from 152 in 1999. Cases of leukaemia had nearly doubled.

Nato forces fired 10,800 depleted uranium shells during the Bosnian conflict, 31,000 during the Kosovan campaign and more than 840,000 in the Gulf war. The European Union's political and security committee is to discuss the issue after calls by the European Commission president, Romano Prodi, for a ban on the ammunition's use.

A fifth Spanish soldier who had served in the Balkans was reported to have died from cancer yesterday. Five Belgians, two Dutch, a Portuguese and a Czech have also died from cancer.

08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Airlines sued over economy-class syndrome


PA News- Monday 8 January 2001

Two passengers who allegedly suffered blood clots from sitting in cramped seats on long-haul flights have begun a landmark legal case against the airlines they flew with.

Solicitors Leigh Day are to sue British Airways and Airtours on behalf of the clients, a middle-aged man and a woman from the south of England, the Evening Standard reports.

Both claim they suffered symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) as soon as they stepped off the aircraft, says solicitor Geraldine McCool.

"Court proceedings will commence within a couple of months and it could go to trial within 12 to 18 months."

"It has the potential to lead a large number of cases - I suspect you would be looking at hundreds rather than thousands."

DVT has been dubbed "economy class syndrome" because of suspected links with the clots - which can be fatal if they reach the lungs or brain - and cramped conditions in cheaper airline seats.

At the weekend it was reported that another family is considering taking legal action against an airline after father-of-four Thomas Lamb died following a long-haul flight from Heathrow to Australia.

The 68-year-old complained of breathing difficulties on arrival in Melbourne and was taken to hospital, where he fell into a coma and later died from a DVT which made its way to his lungs.

Miss McCool says the cases, which are being privately funded by the unnamed clients, are being fought under the terms of the Warsaw Convention, the agreement governing airlines' responsibilities for loss and injury.

A BA spokesman says he is unable to comment until the company had received the writs. An Airtours spokeswoman also refused to comment before they had received details of the court action.

08 Jan 01 - Food Safety - US call to ban cigarette sales

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles

Guardian- Monday 8 January 2001

Cigarettes should be available only to those already addicted to them and should no longer be sold for profit, according to the man who framed the Clinton administration's tobacco policy.

The radical strategy, explained in a book by David Kessler, the former head of the powerful food and drug administration, will send shivers through the tobacco industry, which is still reeling from successive class action awards made against it on behalf of lung cancer sufferers. Dr Kessler says the industry should be dismantled and cigarettes sold only in plain wrappers on a non-profit basis to existing addicts.

The proposed strategy comes just after the publication of figures showing that cancer rates have fallen over the last decade by 16% in California, the state with the toughest anti-smoking laws, compared with 2.7% elsewhere in the United States.

Dr Kessler's new book, A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry, suggests that there is now no other way to deal with tobacco than dismantle the tobacco companies as they now stand and allow them to operate only as a regulated organisation, similar to a public utility, able to supply cigarette addicts but not allowed to market their product. The money paid by smokers would be used only to cover the costs of production and transport.

"Although nicotine and cigarettes have to remain available, you cannot ethically and morally allow companies to make a profit," argues Dr Kessler, who is now the dean of the Yale University medical school. He believes that if the profit motive were removed from the equation, the industry would gradually die. Without a profit, the powerful tobacco industry would be unable to lobby politicians as successfully as it has in the past.

Dr Kessler tells how he was once told by Hillary Clinton: "I really admire what you are doing. It's Orwellian to say that nicotine is not a drug."

Her husband Bill was more reluctant to tackle the issue, he says, arguing that the Democrats' stance on tobacco and gun control had cost them control of Congress. However, Dr Kessler was able to persuade the president to mount an aggressive campaign against marketing cigarettes to children.

Whether Dr Kessler's suggestions will have much resonance within George W Bush's administration is another matter. Shares in tobacco companies rose as news of Mr Bush's victory was confirmed.

07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Scotland's BSE?

Carlos Alba and Guy Dennis

Sunday Times- Sunday 7 January 2001

Farmed Scottish salmon has made the fish cheap and plentiful, but disturbing new evidence shows dangerous toxins are being passed through the food chain.

Every morning for 16 years Willie MacKintosh set out from Red Point on the edge of Loch Torridon in his 28ft fishing boat.

Against the wild splendour of the Wester Ross countryside, he prepared and cast his nets, just as generations had done before him.

On a reasonable day he could catch more than 200 wild salmon. On a good day he would land more - his record was 900.

But today he is the last commercial salmon fisherman on Scotland's west coast and even he is preparing to hang up his nets. Dwindling stocks meant that last year he managed just four days of fishing; he says he needn't have bothered.

Ten miles further north Mark Vincent, owner of the Loch Maree hotel, is closing down for the winter. He used to employ eight ghillies, now he keeps one, part-time.

At its peak the loch was a magnet for anglers, providing more than 1,000 salmon every season. Now it's a good year if they hit 70.

The hundreds of anglers who once flocked to Loch Maree from around the world now head for the abundant waters of Canada, Alaska and Russia instead.

"Anglers like a nice location but they also want the chance to catch a fish," he said.

Both men believe they are victims of salmon farming, Scotland's fastest growing industry and the bÍte noire of conservationists, anglers and now public health experts.

The devastating decline in the wild salmon population is just one of the effects blamed on the rise of salmon farms which have grown from zero to more than 300 in 30 years.

Their proliferation on the west coast of Scotland has given to the masses what was once a luxury for toffs: Scottish salmon all year round at affordable prices.

Its ubiquity has been promoted by the rise of the fish farm and the supermarket, but in transforming salmon from expensive luxury to refrigerator staple, they have reduced a noble symbol of Scotland - the Romans named it "salmo", the leaper - to a flabby imitation. The salmon's plight will be highlighted tonight when a BBC documentary will present evidence confirming alarming levels of pollutants in samples of salmon from farms throughout Scotland.

Parasitic sea lice which thrive around the farms and toxic pollutants contained in salmon feed are said to be wrecking the coastal environment. The parasites are known to have attacked wild stocks, destroying their dorsal fins and covering them in lesions.

There are also fears that farmed salmon afflicted with diseases such as furunculosis , bacterial kidney disease , vibriosis and, most recently, infectious salmon anaemia are escaping into the wild.

In some rivers, where wild salmon are extinct, the only fish now caught are escapees. Figures released last autumn revealed that the number of wild salmon caught in the Tweed, Forth and Tay rivers was barely half the average caught between 1994 and 1998. For Scotland as a whole, the number of wild salmon caught by anglers and netsmen was down almost 40% on 1998.

Then fisheries minister, John Home Robertson, said the figures were the worst on record. "This has many implications for the long-term sustainability of salmon in Scottish rivers. We need to take fresh initiatives to conserve stocks and to improve the regulation of fisheries. The Scottish executive is already working to tackle the problems faced by freshwater fisheries - and, in particular, salmon and sea trout." The government knows there is a serious problem, but has yet to find a solution to satisfy producers and environmentalists.

Mackintosh can tell immediately the farmed from the wild salmon. Some have cataracts, causing blindness, a result of intensive production. Some have a condition vets call "humpback", a bloated look caused by raised temperatures during the incubation period.

An ordinary wild salmon takes five or six years to grow from hatching to smoltification when it swims into the ocean. Under farmed conditions, breeders manipulate light, temperature and feeding to reduce that period to less than six months .

"It's like the difference between a pig and a sheep to someone who knows fish," MacKintosh said. "Their tails are all worn away, and if they are fresh out of the cage their noses are red raw because of the rubbing against the cages, and their fins are worn away. In the wild, salmon don't rub against anything, they're not designed for it. It's cruelty really."

In Scotland there is no statutory inspection or delousing of farmed salmon, only a voluntary agreement.

The authorities are not prepared to even admit that there is a link between parasitic sea lice and salmon farms but the evidence is compelling.

More worrying are the health concerns which have prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union to revise guidelines on the recommended intake of salmon to one-tenth of the previous level.

That concern is finally being echoed in Scotland where two Scottish parliament committees are demanding a government inquiry into all aspects of the industry.

"Given the economic importance of this industry to rural communities, it is necessary to address the concerns about the environmental impact of the industry and develop a strategy to combat any problems," said rural affairs committee convenor Alex Johnstone.

"We hope the executive will take up our recommendation and establish an independent inquiry."

Until now the Scottish executive has been reluctant to allow too much public scrutiny of into an industry worth £260m to the Scottish economy every year - more than Highland beef and lamb combined.

To date government action has been limited to its Salmon Conservation Bill, which will pass through its final stages in the Scottish parliament in the next fortnight. The bill will give the government sweeping executive powers to introduce unspecified measures to support salmon conservation. But critics say it is directed at small wild salmon netters and anglers rather than the fish farms at the heart of the problem. It also gives significant powers to unaccountable quangos whose members will remain anonymous.

The culture of secrecy and the ferocity of government attacks on those who question salmon production methods will be highlighted in the BBC documentary. The programme makes disturbing claims that marine scientists have been silenced by government officials over the environmental impact of the industry.

At stake are not just the massive economic benefits to Scotland and the fate of 6,500 employees in areas of notoriously low unemployment. There is also the issue of Scotland's reputation for producing safe and high quality natural food products. Scottish salmon, like Aberdeen Angus beef or Scotch whisky, has been a byword for quality throughout the world.

BSE threatened to bring Scotland's farming industry to its knees. Livestock farmers survived but another food scare could be devastating, especially with an increasingly sceptical public.

There are worrying similarities to BSE. Salmon reared on farms are fed with pellets made from wild fish such as sand eels and capelin which contain contaminants known as persistent organic pollutants. They include organochlorines such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

Both are compounds known to affect the human nervous system, causing learning disabilities and depression of the immune system, weakening resistance to cancer as well as colds and flu. These toxins are not only found in fish, they are now present in tiny amounts in virtually all our food, in meat, milk products, eggs and nuts, but levels are at least 10 times greater in farmed salmon, according to a study by scientists at the Canadian David Suzuki Foundation.

A single portion of salmon is virtually harmless but regular consumption over time leads to an accumulation of contaminants.

Dr Miriam Jacobs, a toxicologist at Surrey University, found high levels of such pollutants in salmon samples taken from seven Scottish farms. She believes her findings are particularly worrying for young children and pregnant women.

Despite the new recommendations by the WHO, the Aberdeen-based Food Standards Agency is playing down health concerns. Man-made contaminants and dioxins are widespread in the environment. That they can be found in the food chain, including salmon, is not new, they say.

"People should eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, as part of a balanced diet. At present, there is no reason to change that advice," said an agency spokesman.

The industry association, Scottish Quality Salmon, and George Lyon, the Liberal Democrat MSP who represents Argyle and Bute, have rejected claims made in the BBC documentary as an irresponsible attack an industry providing 6,500 "precious" jobs in a remote area. SQS chairman Lord Lindsay has written to the BBC complaining about "inaccuracies".

Despite the predictable anger of the salmon industry, the documentary-makers and the toxicologist at the centre of the row have highlighted real concerns being voiced by environmentalists, food safety campaigners and governments in Scandinavia.

Joanna Blythman, a leading authority on food quality and author of The Food We Eat, said: "I don't care how cheap it is or how healthy the government says it is. I don't trust them to take a wider view of the health and environmental issues. I never tell people to do anything, but farmed salmon doesn't go in my shopping basket.

"I don't believe that farming fish is the solution to our problems. I think we have to manage our wild fisheries much, much better, and not just in Scotland, but all around the world. Fish farming, rather than taking the pressure off wild stocks, which is an argument salmon farmers often put up, is actually contributing to the demise of wild stocks."

MacKintosh doesn't need an expert to tell him that; his empty nets remind him every time he returns from another fruitless voyage.

He believes his job and those of other netsmen leaving the industry have been sacrificed in the interests of a bigger, growing industry. But he rejects the claim that the farms are bringing any sustainable economic benefit.

"The fish farms have brought nothing at all to the villages. There are fish farm workers on income support because of the meagre wages they get. It's just a job for them so they do it, but the truth has never been told."

07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - MPs favour mass slaughter of badgers to combat TB in cattle

By Colin Brown and Mark Rowe

Independent- Sunday 7 January 2001

A cross-party group of MPs is about to endorse the Government's plans for culling 12,500 badgers over the next four years to combat TB in cattle.

The Commons select committee on agriculture will tell MPs that the culling programme by the Ministry of Agriculture is the best option, despite criticism by farmers, who complain that it is too slow, and animal lovers who oppose the killing. Some protesters question whether there is any link between badgers and TB in cattle. Despite the culling of more than 30,000 badgers in the past 25 years, the disease continues to spread.

The culling is a highly emotive issue and campaigners have protested angrily at some of the sites where it has been carried out. They have also told the Government that its policy could encourage illegal culling and help those engaged in illegal badger-baiting.

The committee has found no evidence that cages used to trap badgers have been raided by those involved in criminal badger-baiting. Its report will be seen as a reinforcement of the Government's programme, following the report by an expert committee chaired by Professor Sir John Krebs in December 1997. The Krebs report recommended trials in 10 areas where TB in cattle was most prevalent, with culling of an estimated 12,500 badgers.

The committee, which backed the cull in a report last year, was told that up to September last year, 1,953 badgers had been culled. The most intense area of culling was north Wiltshire, where 602 badgers were killed, followed by West Cornwall, with 451.

The committee's report will tell MPs that this suggests that the Krebs figure is unlikely to be exceeded and may be lower, as some animals killed on roads are also being used for the tests. The trials aim to find out how TB may spread between cattle, badgers and other wildlife. It will also help to tell the experts what proportion of TB outbreaks in cattle is caused by badgers and whether culling badgers is an effective, and cost-effective, way of controlling bovine TB.

Wildlife groups say there is no conclusive proof of a link between badgers and bovine TB. They say the ministry has failed to carry out the culls on a scientific basis and that most badgers are not even infected with TB. They have protested that hundreds of badger cubs are starving to death when their mothers are culled.

Elaine King, conservation officer for the National Federation of Badger Groups, said: "Everybody knows that people get the human form of TB when they live in poor-quality housing, with poor diets and too much stress. We believe cattle get bovine TB for the same reason. A dairy cow is pushed extremely hard to produce milk and this quite probably reduces their resistance to infection. "The badger is being made the scapegoat. It is extremely unlikely that badgers are the sole source of infection and a solution will never be found unless the scientists look at other routes of transmission."

However, the select committee supports the Krebs report's assertion that the culling programme does not risk wiping out badgers in any of the 10 areas. The total badger population of Britain is estimated at more than 300,000, and 50,000 are believed to be killed on the roads each year. In areas where the culling is taking place, it is estimated that 20 per cent will survive.

The MPs are concerned that the evidence of a link between badgers and bovine TB is compelling but not conclusive. They say more evidence is needed, and support the Government's £1.4m programme to produce a vaccine for cattle - but that could take 15 years.

07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon farmers braced for clampdown on toxins

Stuart Millar, Scotland editor

Guardian- Sunday 7 January 2001

Scotland's beleaguered fish farming industry is facing a crisis as the European Commission considers measures to prevent contamination of farmed salmon by cancer-causing toxic chemicals .

The Observer has learnt that Brussels is likely to act this month to slash the permissible levels of toxin contamination in fishmeal and oil pellets amid growing evidence that, potentially, they pose a threat to human health.

The development comes in the wake of a row over a BBC2 wildlife documentary to be screened tonight. It will reignite concerns about the health and environmental impact of fish farming, an industry worth £300 million to the Scottish economy, providing jobs for 6,500 people.

Last week, a BBC news story claimed the documentary had discovered research that showed farmed salmon carried up to 10 times the levels of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS) than their wild counterparts.

The story provoked a furious reaction from the aquaculture industry and from the scientist credited with carrying out the research, who accused the BBC of misinterpreting her findings. The Food Standards Agency, which lambasted the BBC for creating a food scare, insisted there was no evidence to suggest farmed salmon were more at risk of contamination than wild fish.

But The Observer has established that Brussels believes the problem is more serious than the British authorities would suggest. At a meeting to take place this month, the Commission will consider a proposal to cut dioxin limits in fish feed after an investigation by an EU scientific committee.

The concern focuses on the tiny feed pellets, made from the rendered-down remains of small fish, that make up 75 per cent of the diet of farmed carniverous fish such as salmon. Trace levels of dioxins, a by-product of industrial incineration, and PCBs, man-made contaminants that were banned in Britain 30 years ago, can be found throughout the food chain, including in wild fish.

But the latest EU research found fishmeal and oil carried the greatest contamination of all animal feeds, raising the possibility of toxins crossing into the human food chain.

'As farmed fish combines an important consumption of feed materials of fish origin (up to 75 per cent in the diet of carnivorous species) with a high level of contamination of these feed materials, it is the food-producing animal most exposed to dioxins,' the Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition said in a report handed to the European Commission last November.

Another group of experts, the Scientific Committee on Food, found that fish and fish products were the main contributors to exposure to dioxin contamination, ahead of dairy and meat products. The concentration of dioxin-related compounds in fish and fish products was 10 times the level found in other foodstuffs. The EU last month lowered its weekly tolerable limit of intake of these compounds.

A Commission official said: 'This is a serious problem and I think the solution will be a cut in dioxin limits. This is a big industry...but the Commission will put public health first when it makes its decision.'

The fishmeal and fishfarming industries are bracing themselves for tough action. Stuart Barlow, chief executive of the UK-based International Fishmeal and Oil Manufacturers Association, said the $750m-a-year European meal industry would be devastated by a drastic cut in the dioxin limits. 'If it is a big cut then we will be in serious trouble and so will the fish farmers because they will have nothing to feed their fish,' he said.

The BBC2 documentary, Warnings from the Wild: The price of salmon, also contains claims that government scientists were told they would lose their jobs if they spoke out about the impact of fish farming on wild salmon stocks. The Scottish Executive has denied the claims.

07 Jan 01 - Food Safety - A leap in the dark

James Meek

Guardian- Sunday 7 January 2001

Salmon farming has put a once rare delicacy on all our plates - but is it safe to eat? And how does it compare with the wild variety?

This is a tale of two salmon. The first, the wild one, emerges in spring from a gravel-covered trench in the upper reaches of a Scottish river and begins to feed. It may take a year, it may take eight, but eventually she gets the strength to swim downstream to the sea. She roams the Atlantic as far as Greenland, feeds and grows and, if she survives disease and predators, including man, returns to the river, struggles upstream, digs a trench, lays her eggs, waits for a male salmon to fertilise them, and buries them with flicks of her tail. The whole cycle can take more than a decade.

The gaunt wild salmon's sleek new cousin lives out his life in a series of cages on a Scottish fish farm. Reared in fresh water, he is moved to the salt water of a sea loch when he is ready to migrate and spends the rest of his short life swimming in aimless caged circles in a kind of living soup made up of 2% fish and 98% water. Fed a steady diet rich in fish protein, with added axanthin to give his flesh a consumer-friendly pink colour, he is safe from fly fishermen and poachers; if he gets ill, the vet comes and prescribes medicine for the whole cage. In as little as two years, he reaches about three kilos in weight, and is killed for our table.

Up until the 1970s, salmon was a luxury. Even now, the way it is often served, tissue-thin smoked slices with dainty triangles of brown bread, as if it was rare as caviar, is a nod to its nob origins. The truth, of course, is that thanks to Scottish fish farming, it's about as rare as bacon. Britain produces 125,000 tonnes of farmed salmon a year, against a couple of hundred tons of the wild stuff. Just in time. With wild sea fish such as cod turning from staples to delicacies, farmed salmon - healthy, locally produced and cheap - is well placed to fill a niche in the national diet.

Which is why the latest revival of long-standing concerns about pollutants in farmed fish has caused such a stir. A scientist at the University of Surrey in Guildford, Miriam Jacobs, has come up with evidence that the kind of salmon on sale in Britain today contains levels of man-made toxins which could be dangerous, particularly for young children.

Pre-publicity for a BBC documentary featuring her findings this weekend exaggerated her results, triggering a furious reaction from Scottish salmon producers and the Food Standards Agency, which insists that salmon is safe. A recently disbanded government-appointed advisory committee on medical aspects of food policy, Coma, recommended that everyone eat a portion of oily fish, like salmon, once a week. Salmon contains substances called long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help keep heart disease at bay.

Even setting aside the BBC's hype about the Jacobs research, however, her results do not make comfortable reading. As she admits, the number of fish she took samples from is too small to form the basis for scientific advice. But they are pointers to worry about.

Jacobs was studying the fish for the presence of toxins called PCBs and dioxins, notorious carcinogens released into the environment by decades of unsafe waste disposal. Although there has been a clampdown in this kind of pollution, they take a long time to degrade.

The concern is that the traditional dumping ground for PCBs and dioxins was the sea, and salmon are fed with fishmeal which may come from areas that are still heavily polluted, such as the North Sea and the Baltic.

One of the fish Jacobs analysed had 340 picograms of PCB per 100 gramme serving. The World Health Organisation's recommended maximum daily intake of PCBs is 1 to 4 picograms per kilogramme of bodyweight. For a 70-kilogramme adult, that would put the intake slightly over the daily limit with just that small serving; for a young child, the intake of PCBs would be many times too high.

Jacobs argues that more research is needed, and that the potentially dangerous fishmeal in the diet of farmed salmon should be replaced with vegetable matter - something organic salmon farmers are already doing. "There is the potential to make farmed salmon one of the least contaminated animal foods there is," she said.

The salmon farmers are not happy. Although the number of organic fish farmers is growing, there are worries that the fish produced doesn't taste quite as, well, fishy as the conventionally reared salmon. The industry's lobby group, Scottish Quality Salmon, claims that European research shows the level of PCBs and dioxins in salmon to be no more or less than that in a whole range of foodstuffs; the pollution is simply embedded in the environment, and only time will make it fade away.

"If you look hard enough, you'll find these things in most foods people eat," said John Webster, a technical adviser to the organisation and a wild salmon fisherman for 40 years. "My advice to people in the salmon farming industry is they need to be aware of this and they need to be sourcing their feed from areas that haven't suffered so much from dumping, like the South Atlantic."

Whether there is any extra safety to be had in opting for wild salmon is uncertain. In Jacobs' research, wild and farmed fish had similar levels of contamination, although the "wild" fish may have been farm escapees.

The two are, at least, still distinguishable, and not just by price (wild salmon is six times more expensive than farmed). "I can usually tell the difference from about 40 yards away," said Paschal Tiernan, managing director of London restaurant owners Fish! plc. "One has fought for a living all its life. It's a bit like seeing a town dweller up against a guy who's spent his life crofting in the Highlands."

Tiernan prefers the wild salmon - it has a "slightly richer flavour" - but the difference is nothing like as great as that between a French free range chicken and an English battery hen, he said. Although the Fish! restaurants use only organic salmon, he was unconcerned about the claims of contaminants. "I don't want to sound like John Selwyn Gummer," he said, "But I would give my kids any fish that came out of a supermarket, organic or not."

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Woman dies after 9-hour flight

By Sam Coates

Times- Saturday 6 January 2001

A woman has died from the condition associated with "economy-class syndrome" after collapsing during the final moments of a nine-hour flight from San Francisco.

Suzanne Mavir-Ross, 42, of Llay, near Wrexham, became unwell during a Virgin Atlantic flight. The captain of the flight had to radio ahead for a priority landing slot while a doctor and nurse, who happened to be on the plane, administered emergency treatment. Cabin crew used the in-flight defibrillator, but her condition deteriorated rapidly. She was dead on arrival at Ashford Hospital.

A post-mortem examination has revealed that she died from a pulmonary embolism, a fatal blockage of the arteries.

Last night Sandra Clyne, a neighbour, described Ms Mavir-Ross, who worked as a buyer for Iceland at its headquarters in Deeside, as a "very lively, buzzing lady who could never sit still. She was very active, always playing golf. She went on regular golfing holidays with her husband, Ian, to Spain. She was also very used to travelling as she had to do a lot for her job. She spent a lot of time away from home. I gather she had spent much of the flight sleeping."

She was said to have been returning from a break in New York with her husband, who lives and works in the South of England.

So-called "economy-class syndrome" received widespread publicity last year when 28-year-old Emma Christoffersen, from Newport, South Wales, collapsed and died days after a 23-hour flight home from Australia.

Ms Mavir-Ross, however, had been travelling in business class, supporting recent evidence that the condition does not only affect those in economy. Virgin Atlantic said last night they were saddened by the tragedy, but there was no evidence to link her death to the flight. "We do not know her medical history and it is too early to say what happened," a spokesman said.

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - One in three hospital wards 'filthy'

By David Charter And Helen Studd

Times- Saturday 6 January 2001

One in three hospitals has failed basic cleanliness checks in the first national audit of hygiene on the wards, it was disclosed yesterday.

In a survey of nearly 700 hospital buildings, 250 were given the lowest grade for basic sanitation such as the tidiness of wards, state of litter collection and freshness of linen.

The findings will only increase patients' fears about the decaying state of the health service after a report for MPs in November that linked the poor personal hygiene practices of staff with outbreaks of disease in hospital.

About 5,000 patients die each year from infections caught after arriving at hospital. A further 100,000 suffer from illnesses caught on the wards at a cost to the NHS of up to £1 billion a year.

The survey will come as an embarrassment to Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, who issued guidelines to all hospital trusts last summer in the wake of a damning National Audit Office report. These were intended to ensure that wards were properly cleaned to eradicate potentially fatal infections such as MRSA, which is carried in dust mites.

In August St Thomas' Hospital in London was forced to close its operating theatres for heart surgery for two weeks after the death of two patients from MRSA.

Liam Fox, the Shadow Health Secretary, said he was appalled but not surprised at the findings. "It is a sorry state of affairs when the hospital service in the world's fourth largest economy is looking clapped-out, dirty and run-down. Patients are afraid that when they go into hospital they will catch a life-threatening infection," he said.

Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital managers, blamed efficiency savings demanded by ministers for the poor hygiene of hospital buildings.

"Responsibility for cleaning tended to fall on the middle managers who have been 'delayered' in the 1980s and 1990s. It is a kind of Railtrack scenario, with no investment in the people needed to do the job," he said.

Fewer than a quarter of the hospitals surveyed during spot checks in the autumn were given the top grade for cleanliness.

The checks were run by "patient environment action teams" formed in response to a pledge in the Government's NHS Plan to carry out regular reviews of hospital sanitation.

They comprised infection control nurses and patient representatives who were asked to grade the buildings as green, yellow or, if they failed to meet key standards, red. A total of 291 fell into the middle band and could do much to improve their environment.

Between 10 and 20 are believed to have caused such concern that Mr Milburn is understood to have called for immediate action. Managers from "green" hospitals will form teams to help the worst cases.

The Department of Health refused to comment on the findings, saying a report would be published when the surveys have been completed.

The findings were disclosed in the respected industry magazine, the Health Service Journal, based on figures from a branch of the Department of Health called NHS Estates.

One manager said: "They have asked a number of us to form groups to go into the very small number of 'deep red' hospitals that are perceived to need some sort of support urgently. We would go in with the expectation that our advice would be implemented."

Simon Williams of the Patients' Association, who was one of the inspectors, said he saw pigeons in one hospital's canteen and in another's reception area. He said: "Some of the hospitals I went to were disgusting. There were toilets which were absolutely filthy. There were some really dirty wards with clinical waste lying around."

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Holiday tattoo gives girl life-long allergy

By Robin Young

Times- Saturday 6 January 2001

A girl of seven has been permanently injured by a temporary tattoo that she was given on holiday in Greece.

Jessica Jones, from Newcastle upon Tyne, will have to stay out of the sunshine for two years and avoid hair dye and cosmetics for the rest of her life because the tattoo contained the chemical para-phenylene diamine (PPD).

It is used as a cheap substitute for natural henna but can cause a serious reaction. The area where the dye is applied can be left scarred for life.

Jessica's case is one of four seen by Dr Aileen Taylor, a consultant dermatologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, since last summer.

Dr Taylor said: "PPD is much more abrasive than real henna and can lead to dreadful consequences for many people who have a reaction to it. Those who suffer such a reaction become sensitised to it, and are liable to have the same reaction for a long time afterwards if they come into contact with PPD again."

Dr Taylor said PPD, which is also found in some sunscreens and hair dyes, was used because it was cheaper than natural henna and dried much more quickly.

She said: "I would ask people travelling abroad to be very careful. If they are tempted to have a temporary tattoo, they should make very certain the tattooist really is using henna. The best way to avoid painful consequences is not to have a temporary tattoo at all."

Jessica was given a four inch tattoo of a dolphin on her left arm while on holiday in Lindos, Rhodes, last year.

Her mother, Dawn Gilchrist of West Denton, Newcastle, said: "The tattooist was supposed to be doing henna tattoos that would fade away after a few weeks.

"It had a terrible effect on Jessica within a few days. Her arm swelled alarmingly and blisters appeared all over it. Jessica was in such terrible pain that she did not sleep for a week, and now she is left with after-effects for life."

Ms Gilchrist said that a hospital test on Jessica had shown that her daughter was now severely sensitised to PPD. She added: "We have been told she will be unable to use hair dye or cosmetics when she is older, and will have to avoid clothes that might have the dye in them. She cannot go out in hot sunlight again for up to two years unless she is covered in protective clothing.

"It is a terrible price to pay for a small tattoo that was supposed to be temporary and completely harmless."

Dr Celia Moss, a consultant dermatologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital, said that she had seen numerous children with allergic reactions to dyes containing PPD.

Doctors are concerned that the numbers of young people adversely affected by temporary tattoos, which are also widely available in Britain, may grow exponentially because of the fashion for body art fostered by celebrities.

David Beckham has a guardian angel above his son's name, Brooklyn, tattoed on his back. The Spice Girl, Mel B, has a phoenix on her upper arm in honour of her daughter, Phoenix Chi, while her colleague, Mel C, sports seven tattoos including a dragon on her calf and a phoenix on her back. Robbie Williams has a lion pouncing over one shoulder, a Maori design on the other, and a Celtic cross on his thigh. Many others wear temporary tattoos.

Dermatologists are concerned that parents will think temporary tattoos represent a painless alternative to conventional tattooing.

The pure henna dye used in traditional Indian mendhi tattoos is accepted to be harmless, but problems have been reported with so-called "semi-permanent" tattoos, available in Britain in hairdressing salons and on market stalls.

Plastic surgeons say the "semi-permanent" tattoos, using inks that that are supposed not to breach the surface of the skin and should fade away after five years, have proved more stubborn to remove than manufacturers claimed.

Dr Nathan Holt, who has already had to remove several, said: "It is difficult to say how these tattoos will last over time, as we are just starting to see them come on to the market, but already I have had to remove some using lasers."

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Error in salmon study undermines toxin claims

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent- Saturday 6 January 2001

Fresh doubts have been raised about the scientific research that was reported this week to show that farmed salmon are contaminated with much higher levels of toxins than their wild cousins.

An error has been identified in one of the studies, which wrongly identified "farmed" salmon as coming from a supermarket when in fact it was wild salmon.

The mistake emerged yesterday as the Food Standards Agency wrote a formal letter of complaint to Greg Dyke, the director general of the BBC, saying that the corporation has breached its own guidelines on impartiality, accuracy, balance and fairness in its reports on the research.

Neil Martinson, the agency's director of communications, says the reports do a disservice to the public. "The facts have been treated with total disregard by the [BBC] and our openness and honesty has been abused," he writes.

BBC News said that tomorrow night's programme, Warning from the Wild - the Price of Salmon, will highlight the potential dangers for consumers who eat farmed salmon.

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Call for action on planes' air quality

Staff Reporter

BBC- Saturday 6 January 2001

Airline staff say poor air quality in planes is making them ill.

The American union which represents flight crews is calling for tighter regulation of air quality on commercial planes.

It has collected 760 examples from members of what it says are health problems caused by poor air quality.

But scientists told a US government scientific panel that they doubted there was any need to bring in new rules.

Crews at risk

Representatives of the union, the 50,000-strong Association of Flight Attendants had told the panel that the levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and other polluting chemicals that are currently allowed put crews at risk.

Over the last nine years, the union has received reports from members reporting symptoms including headaches, nausea, and memory loss.

Judith Murawski, an industrial hygienist for the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 27 different airlines said: "The persistence of the complaints we get from flight attendants indicate that there is a problem.

She said the majority of complaints came from staff who worked on McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 jets, which the union says has design faults which allow toxic fumes and liquids to leak into the cabin's air supply.

Levels of carbon monoxide in aircraft cabins are currently set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Association at 50 parts per million.

The union want the limits to be changed to nine parts per million, which the American Environmental Protection Agency say is safe.

'Hours' to blame

But industry scientists have said no link has ever been proven between toxic gases on planes and illnesses among the crew and that such illnesses were rare.

David Space, a Seattle-based research scientist for Boeing, said long hours and jet lag were more likely to be the causes of staff illness.

"Their duty schedule is likely to be a major factor affecting their comfort and well-being."

A national study in the US this year will look at symptoms of 6,000 air crew to see if there is a pattern.

The US Congress had also asked scientific experts to come up with new air quality regulations.

These latest fears follow concerns raised about the levels of organophosphates (OPs) from lubricants, which sometimes leak into the cabin air supply.

In September last year Costing the Earth, BBC Radio Four's environment programme, highlighted reports that some airline staff have been incapacitated in flight, and others forced to give up flying.

The UK government said it would commission a comprehensive study of the evidence.

Bruce D'Ancey, the technical secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association, said then that he was concerned at the possible implications of lubricants using OPs, highly toxic chemicals already blamed for causing neurological damage in farmers and other people.

He says: "What we are in is a situation where we have OPs in engine oil, a known method by which they can enter the cabin through the compressor system, and we know they are hazardous to health.

"That should surely be enough to cause an investigation."

06 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Woman dies after long-haul flight


PA News- Saturday 6 January 2001

A British woman has died following a long-haul flight from San Francisco to London's Heathrow Airport.

Suzanne Mavir-Ross, of Llay, near Wrexham, north Wales, is thought to have collapsed during the descent of Virgin Atlantic flight VS020 on Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Virgin was unable to confirm reports that Ms Mavir-Ross suffered a pulmonary thrombosis embolism and stressed that "at this stage there was nothing to link her death with the flight".

The business-class passenger, reportedly in her early 40s, was taken to Ashford hospital, in Middlesex, by a waiting ambulance where she was later confirmed dead.

The Virgin spokesman added: "As we started our descent into Heathrow, the passenger was given treatment on board by cabin crew who have medical training. As we had started our descent we got emergency clearance to land and an ambulance was waiting.

"We heard subsequently that she had sadly died. Our thoughts are with the family."

According to local reports, Mrs Mavir-Ross was returning from a New Year break in the United States with her husband Ian, who is said to live in the south of England, due to work commitments.

Neighbours have described the dead woman as extremely fit and active and someone who enjoyed good health.

Her friend told the Wrexham Evening Leader newspaper how she enjoyed travelling and would journey abroad three times a year. It is understood that her case has been passed to the Surrey Coroner, Michael Burgess.

Deep Vein Thrombosis has been dubbed the "economy class syndrome". Late last year, Emma Christoffersen, 28, died when she collapsed after completing a 20-hour flight from Australia.

05 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Tobacco firms in row over film ban

Jamie Wilson

Guardian- Friday 5 January 2001

Hollywood actors are increasingly endorsing cigarette brands in films, leading to allegations by medical researchers that the movie and tobacco industries might be flouting a ban on payments for "product placements" in films.

The use of actors to promote the most popular tobacco brands has increased tenfold since the voluntary ban was introduced in the US in 1990, according to a report published in the Lancet.

The findings have alarmed anti-smoking groups. Studies have shown that smoking by teenagers is strongly influenced by the use of tobacco by their favourite actor.

"Tobacco companies know full well that kids are going to see these films and this is probably a deliberate tactic to target the youth market," said Amanda Sandford, research manager for the charity Action on Smoking and Health.

The researchers, from Dartmouth Medical School in the US, said that several possibilities could explain continued tobacco brand appearance in films, from the tobacco industry continuing to pay directly or through payments in kind, to directors using brand imagery to increase a sense of realism or to convey character traits. However, flouting the payment ban would be consistent with regular violation of the cigarette advertising code by the tobacco industry since its inception in 1964.

The study looked at the top 25 US box office films for each year from 1988 to 1997. The researchers found that before 1990, 1% of the top US box office films showed actors with a recognisable brand of cigarette on screen. But in the years after the ban, 11% of the films showed actors endorsing a brand.

The four most highly advertised US cigarette brands accounted for the most on-screen appearances, including those in hits such as My Best Friend's Wedding (pictured), Men in Black and Volcano.

More than a quarter of all 250 films studied featured recognisable tobacco brands, including shots of billboards, shop fronts, logos and packets.


04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: Toxins found in fish

Staff Reporter

Times- Thursday 4 January 2001

polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): These compounds were widely used in industry as heat-exchange fluids, in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper and plastics. Of the 209 different types, 13 exhibit a dioxin-like toxicity. Those with higher levels of chlorination last longer in the environment, with some persisting for several years. PCBs are toxic to fish, killing them at higher doses and causing spawning failures at lower doses. Research also links PCBs to reproductive failure and suppression of immune system in wild animals.

dioxins : Produced due to incomplete combustion, as well during manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances. They are emitted mostly from the burning of waste and also from car emissions, peat, coal and wood. There are 75 dioxins: seven are of concern. One type was present in the soil ten to 12 years after first exposure. dioxins have been associated with immune and enzyme disorders and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Laboratory animals given dioxins suffered an increase in birth defects and stillbirths. Food (particularly from animals) is the major source of exposure for human beings.

Furans : Compounds produced unintentionally from many of the same processes that produce dioxins, and also during the production of PCBs. They have been detected in emissions from waste incinerators and cars. There are 135 different types, and their toxicity varies. Furans persist in the environment for long periods, and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Food, particularly animal products, is the major source of exposure for human beings. Furans have also been detected in breast-fed infants.

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: Success of £300m industry has come at a price

By Shirley English And Robin Young

Times- Thursday 4 January 2001

The huge metal cages and distinctive walkways of the commercial salmon farm now float on almost every sea loch on Scotland's West Coast.

In the past 20 years the industry has become the third largest of its kind in the world. It is worth £300 million a year and employs around 6,500 people, mostly in the Highlands and Islands.

In 1980 around 800 tonnes of Scottish salmon were produced in a dozen or so marine salmon farms. Now there are 359 outlets producing 127,000 tonnes of fish a year, or around 95 per cent of the salmon that reaches our dinner plates. Most owned by foreign multinational companies.

But concerns have arisen over the industry's alleged links to algae blooms which have damaged shellfish beds in the Western Isles and mainland coast. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has detected 26 effluent pollution leaks in the last two years. Infestations of sea lice and outbreaks of infectious salmon anaemia, a fatal disease which attacks the fish's liver, have also dented public confidence.

Large-scale salmon farming is not much different from large-scale broiler chicken farming. Cages, the largest of which can hold up to 750,000 fish at up to 20kg of fish per cubic metre of water, are anchored in protected waters. The fish are fed a mix of fish-meal protein, fish oil, vitamins and minerals to produce quick growth, and pigment to achieve a pink colour.

The fish meal is principally from industrial fisheries, but can also contain food processors' waste. The fish can be dosed with 19 authorised chemicals to deal with infestations of sea lice and diseases which could spread very quickly among fish kept in close confinement.

Some producers now specialise in premium quality farmed fish, raised by less intensive farming methods. Densities are halved to 10kg of fish per cubic metre, and fish feed is more strictly controlled to contain less fish oil, fish derived only from sustainable sources and colour from crushed prawn shells, which are part of the wild salmon's natural diet.

To qualify for organic certification fish cannot be dosed with chemical agents, so farmers have to rely on movement of the sea water to keep the fish free of lice.

The cages have, therefore, to be anchored in areas with fierce tidal movements, which gives the fish a more thorough workout, improving the tone and texture of their flesh.

The best quality, less intensively farmed salmon costs £6 to £6.50 per kilogram retail for whole fish after gutting, while the early season price for wild fish, the first of which will become available at the end of this month, is likely to be at least ten times higher.

In the past three years around 500,000 farmed salmon have escaped into the wild and many have probably bred with wild salmon, spreading disease across the country's waterways.

No rivers have been left unscathed, not even the most prestigious wild salmon fisheries on the Tay, Royal Deeside and the Tweed.

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Man sues phone firm over mobile mast next door

By Chris Ayres, Media Business Correspondent

Times- Thursday 4 January 2001

Orange is facing a High Court objection to one of its mobile phone masts under the new European Human Rights Act, in what is thought to be the first of hundreds of similar pending cases.

The Times has discovered that David Lale, a company director from Harewood, near Leeds, lodged a High Court appeal last Friday against a decision to put a mast next to his house. Mr Lale claims that the Government did not allow him to object to the mast at a fair and proper hearing. He says this breaks Article 6 of the Human Rights Act.

There are growing fears in the mobile phone industry that legal action taken under the Human Rights Act - which came into force last year - could slow down mast-building programmes. This could damage the revenues of mobile phone companies, which could in turn affect their future funding and stock market performance.

Mobile phone companies need to build 30,000 new masts throughout Britain over the next seven years to take full advantage of their third-generation licences. These licences, sold by the Government for £22.5 billion last April, allow mobile phone companies to offer high-speed Internet services via mobile handsets.

Mast Action UK, a political lobbying group supported by MPs such as Glenda Jackson and celebrities such as Jerry Hall, said that it was also planning to object to several mobile phone masts using the Human Rights Act.

The organisation plans to use the Act to argue that the planning system is unfair because it does not allow people to object to masts on health grounds. They will also argue that planning inspectors are not independent because they are employed by the Secretary of State.

Although all masts meet basic international safety guidelines on thermal heating - recommended by the recent Stewart report - Mast Action UK claims there is not yet enough evidence to show that masts are not linked to diseases such as cancer. The Government is expected to publish a report on mobile phone mast planning issues within weeks.

A spokeswoman for Orange refused to comment on the impact of the Human Rights Act on the company. Instead, she said: "We choose sites that meet our technical needs, our customers' coverage requirements, and that comply with all planning and environmental regulations."

A spokeswoman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents mobile phone companies, said: "We are not in a position to comment on something that is going through the High Court that is not directed at the mobile phone industry." The Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions also refused comment.

A telecoms analyst, who did not want to be named, said: "If this is successful some precedent will be set which will certainly inhibit (mobile phone companies') freedom of movement. There are also lots of public relations issues here for mobile phone companies. They do not want to upset their potential customers. Unfortunately, however, masts are necessary if their services are going to work."

Mr Lale is raising a fund to fight his case. He says the mast, which is disguised as a lamppost, is less than 15ft away from the bedroom of his two children, aged six and eight. Mr Lale's children have written to Hans Snook, the departing chief executive of Orange, asking him to put the mast somewhere else for the sake of their health.

Mr Snook, who is leaving Orange to spend more time to pursue his interest in alternative medicine, has not replied.

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: King of fish contaminated by chemicals

By David Charter, Health Correspondent

Times- Thursday 4 January 2001

A single portion of salmon from a Scottish fish farm can contain more than the safe level of toxic chemicals recommended by the World Health Organisation, researchers have found.

They suggest that toxins from heavy industry, banned in Europe but still used in the developing world, have seeped into the food chain and are being concentrated in fish feed.

The Food Standards Agency, set up in the wake of the BSE crisis, refuses to set an upper limit on the consumption of farmed salmon or issue a warning on possible contamination. Yesterday it was sticking by its recommendation of one meal of oily fish per week.

The research, by Miriam Jacobs at Surrey University, found that levels of man-made polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) were equivalent in a 100g serving to the WHO limit on daily exposure for an adult. Children consuming 100g would be over the upper limit because of their lower body weight. PCBs are known to attack the nervous system, causing learning difficulties in children and suppressing the body's immune system.

Ms Jacobs admitted that her survey was small, only 12 fish from Scottish fish farms, but said the results showed the need for further research. "I think the Food Standards Agency should provide financial help to assess contamination in salmon and look at ways of reducing it. The onus should not be on the farmers."

Her finding of 3.4 picogrammes of PCB per gramme of fish meant a 100g serving would contain 340pg, or 4.86pg per kilogramme of bodyweight for a 70kg adult. The WHO recommended limit is between 1pg and 4pg per kilogramme of bodyweight. Levels of other toxins such as dioxins and furans were much lower, Ms Jacobs said.

The expensive chemical analysis was carried out on state-of-the-art equipment at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Mississippi. The results are featured in a BBC2 documentary to be shown on Sunday, Warnings from the Wild - The Price of Salmon.

The documentary includes claims that the rapidly-growing industry has had a catastrophic impact on populations of wild salmon near fish farms. It suggests that apart from spreading parasites and poisoning local marine life, farmed salmon are escaping into the wild and upsetting the genetic make-up of the wild salmon, which have evolved since the Ice Age.

In further, unpublished research, Ms Jacobs analysed fish feed and found similar levels of toxins to those found in farmed salmon. She added: "There is a strong indication the contamination is coming from the fish feed which should be investigated further."

Dr Michael Easton of the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada, also analysed fish and feed for the documentary. He said: "The results were very, very clear: farmed fish appeared to have a much higher level of contamination and in wild fish the difference was extremely noticeable."

Fish feed manufacturers yesterday insisted their products were safe, even though there are no statutory UK limits on contaminants. Stuart Barlow, director-general of the International Fish Meal and Oil Manufacturers' Association, said: "Levels of dioxins have decreased by 50 per cent because the level of emissions are falling. Because it is illegal to use PCBs, they too are decreasing in the environment and I would think they have decreased in the food."

He said the salmon feed was made of fish oil, cereals and fish from lower down the food chain, such as copelin, sand eels, Norway pout, and anchovies from South America.

The Food Standards Agency said: "The health benefits of eating moderate amounts of fish, including salmon, as part of a healthy balanced diet outweigh any potential risk from dioxins and PCBs. The fact that PCBs can be found in the food chain, including in oily fish, is not new. The FSA has carried out 21 surveys looking at this issue and published results on its website.

"Surveys have shown that exposure to these contaminants from the diet has fallen by about 75 per cent between 1982 and 1997."

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Salmon: Balance risks against benefits

Dr Thomas Stuttaford - Medical Briefing

Times- Thursday 4 January 2001

Any possible risks from eating farm salmon fed on pellets made from wild fish caught in the polluted seas have to be balanced against its nutritional and medicinal value.

It is accepted that these fish are the principal source of PCB and dioxin levels in those who eat them. The advantages of liberal portions of oily fish, rich in Omega III, to the cardiovascular system are well known: the most quoted examples is the low incidence of heart disease in the fish-eating Eskimos and Japanese.

There is firm evidence that fish oils also have an anti-inflammatory role and are useful in the treatment of arthritis. Less well proven are some of the other alleged advantages of fish oil, which include a benefit to intellectual ability.

The acute dangers of exposure to transitory high doses of dioxins and the associated group of related chemicals have been the subject of World Health Organisation and British government reports and numerous surveys in medical journals.

There is little definite evidence of what are the safe limits of these chemicals in the body fat, and what is the effect of high levels of them in the fat when any particular dose has been too small to cause acute poisoning. There is little hard proof to support claims that higher than normal levels are associated with mental retardation or loss of immunity.

Acute poisoning with PCBs causes obvious symptoms: giddiness and a tremor and, when the dose is higher, convulsions and even loss of consciousness.

Symptoms of acute toxicity from a large dose of PCBs include those stemming from liver, kidney and heart impairment. They may also cause changes in the blood cells, in particular white cells, which will obviously have an effect on immunity. The dioxins became notorious after the Vietnamese war, particularly as observations about their deleterious effects there were supplemented by evidence that exposure to them in factories also increased the incidence of malignancies.

The US National Academy of Science has concluded that over exposure to dioxins, and other similar herbicides could be associated with an increased incidence of Hodgkins disease, beta cell lymphomas and may precipitate skin and liver symptoms in those who are genetically sensitive.

The academy also concluded that the evidence of an influence on the risk of developing respiratory and prostatic cancer was less convincing.

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Sharp rise in number of overweight children raises health fears

By Jeremy Laurance

Independent- Thursday 4 January 2001

Children are getting fatter and are likely to suffer more illness in adulthood because of their obesity, research published today shows.

The proportion of children aged up to 11 who are overweight has risen by 50 per cent in a decade. Almost one in 10 boys and one in seven girls were found to be overweight.

The findings suggest that children are learning similar eating habits to their parents. The proportion of overweight and obese adults has also risen sharply since 1980.

Researchers from King's College London studied records for 10,000 boys and 10,000 girls aged four to 11 in England, and 5,000 boys and 5,000 girls of the same age group in Scotland.

They used matched samples for the years 1974, 1984 and 1994, and compared weights and heights of the children at the 10-year intervals.

The results showed little change from 1974 to 1984, but from 1984 to 1994 the waistlines of the children expanded sharply. Scottish children were, on average, fatter than their English counterparts.

Dr Sue Chinn, reader in medical statistics, and colleagues found that the proportion of English boys who were overweight rose from 5.4 per cent to 9 per cent in the 10 years to 1994. Among Scottish boys it rose from 6.4 per cent to 10 per cent. "Overweight" is defined in terms of a body mass index - a composite measure of height and weight, which is expected to be 25 or more as an adult of 18 and over.

Among the girls, the proportion who were overweight rose from 9.3 per cent to 13.5 per cent in England and from 10.4 per cent to 15.8 per cent in Scotland over the same period. The increase was greatest among children aged nine to 11.

Obesity, defined as a body mass index of more than 30, increased correspondingly to affect one in 50 boys and one in 35 girls.

Dr Chinn and her colleagues, writing in the British Medical Journal, say: "The rising trends are likely to be reflected in increases in adult obesity and associated morbidity."

Obesity is recognised as one of the most important public health issues in developed countries. In Britain, 18 per cent of adults - 20 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men - are classified as obese, with a body mass index exceeding 30. On the trend, 25 per cent of adults will be obese by 2010.

A report in November suggested the problem was being fuelled by mistaken beliefs about feeding children. Professor Philip James, chairman of the International Task Force on Obesity, told a conference in London on the childhood causes of adult obesity that babies with low birth weights were being fed more to compensate.

The well-meaning actions of parents anxious for their babies to catch up to normal weight were sowing the seeds of obesity in later life, Professor James said.

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Health fear over farmed salmon

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian- Thursday 4 January 2001

Scientists yesterday revived concerns about the safety of fish farming by suggesting that farmed salmon contained high levels of potentially dangerous pollutants.

They called for urgent research into the problems posed by the rapid growth of aquaculture which means that about a third of the fish now caught commercially on oceans and rivers worldwide goes to feed farmed fish or livestock.

Oily fish have long been know to be big carriers of pollutants but they have also been heavily promoted as healthy ingredients in people's diets, reducing the chances of heart disease and arthritis, among other benefits.

The man-made chemicals are found in a range of foods and result from waste from industrial processes, but in heavy doses are thought to pose a risk to the human nervous and immune systems, particularly in children, and to fertility.

The World Health Organisation and scientists advising the European commission have already recommended reducing tolerable daily intakes of the pollutants by up to a 10th of present levels allowed in Britain, which could pose severe tests for the Scottish farmed salmon industry. It employs about 6,500 people, two-thirds in the Highlands and Islands. The industry is already blamed for other forms of environmental damage and pollution.

In Britain the food standards agency says it has asked independent experts to review the maximum "doses" of pollutants people should consume through their food.

The latest concerns arose out of investigations for Warnings from the Wild, a BBC2 television programme to be screened on Sunday night. One scientist for the programme suggested that the concentration of trawled fish into a high protein diet for farmed fish was concentrating the pollutants too.

Michael Easton, who conducted an unpublished study for Canada's David Suzuki Foundation, told programme makers that farmed fish had much higher levels of PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and flame retardants. Miriam Jacobs, a nutritionist and toxicologist at Surrey University, who has been involved in research, said recent work suggested feed for farmed fish was a significant source of contamination.

The agency is furious at the way the research has been presented by the BBC, especially since Dr Jacobs's published work states that there is no significant difference between contaminant levels in farmed fish and those in wild or escaped fish.

depleted uranium">

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Fears Grow About depleted uranium

Staff reporter

Guardian- Thursday 4 January 2001

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European governments are disturbed. Some of their soldiers are falling sick and dying, and they don't know why. Every day the question grows louder: Can the armor-piercing munitions made of depleted uranium that NATO used in Kosovo be causing cancer?

There is no answer. Nobody has made the connection scientifically. Certainly not NATO.

The United States, the only NATO ally to use depleted uranium weapons during the 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, insisted again Thursday that the munitions pose no health threat.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it is aware of the concerns being raised by some allies.

``We share those concerns,'' said Lt. Col. Paul Phillips. He said the United States has conducted many studies on depleted uranium, particularly since the 1991 Gulf War when the weapons were first used.

``In each study, we've come away convinced that the use of depleted uranium munitions does not present significant or residual environmental or health risks,'' Phillips said.

NATO spokeswoman Simone de Manso in Brussels, said: ``According to our knowledge from independent research... there is no study that can prove a direct link between certain types of diseases of which people are now afraid and contact with depleted uranium.''

The reassurances haven't calmed jittery Europeans, and Thursday the 15-nation European Union added its voice.

``There will be an informal inquiry,'' said EU spokesman Jonathan Faull. He said it was too soon to say if soldiers who served in the Balkans under NATO were suffering from illnesses as a result of contact with depleted uranium. ``What we know is that community citizens have been affected.''

Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the EU ``needs to know the truth.''

``If there exists the slightest risk, then these weapons should be abolished immediately,'' Prodi told Italian radio.

A year ago, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson confirmed that American jets had fired about 31,000 depleted uranium rounds at Yugoslav armored vehicles in Kosovo.

The U.N. Environment Program is expected to release a report on the subject next month. And the subject will be discussed at NATO's regular weekly political committee Tuesday.

Italy launched an investigation last week into a possible link between depleted uranium munitions and about 30 cases of serious illness involving soldiers who served in missions Kosovo and earlier in Bosnia, 12 of whom developed cancer. Five of the soldiers have died of leukemia.

And France said Thursday that four French soldiers who served in the Balkans during the 1999 bombing campaign are being treated for leukemia.

Spain, Portugal, Finland, Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey announced plans to screen peacekeepers.

Some don't believe the screening is worth the effort.

Wendla Paile of the Finnish Center for Radiation and Nuclear Safety in Helsinki said such screening was ``pointless.''

``The radiation from uranium depleted ammunition is so little that it could not explain these extra cases (of leukemia),'' Paile said.

Paul Beaver, an analyst at Janes Defense Weekly, said the countries screening their troops have no idea what to look for.

``The problem is there hasn't been any really good work done on it,'' Beaver said. ``There is no concrete information. There has been research carried out by the U.S. Army, the British and the French as well, but it seems inconclusive. I've read all the literature I can find on it, but I have no straight answer.''

04 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmed salmon 'contaminated'

Staff Reporter

BBC- Thursday 4 January 2001

UK scientists are calling for urgent research to be carried out into the safety of farmed salmon after research showed that some fish contain worrying levels of potentially dangerous chemicals. Dr Miriam Jacobs of Surrey University found the farmed fish contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The production of PCBs is banned in most countries - but the chemicals accumulate in oceans after being released in industrial waste.

The chemicals are thought to affect human nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Dr Jacobs traced the contamination back to the feed that includes fish meal and oil which come from wild fish trawled from the world's oceans in vast quantities by industrial fleets.

Concentrating the nutritional value of these fish into pellets to produce a high-protein diet for farmed salmon multiplies the minute traces of toxins present in each individual fish to a more significant level.

Once ingested, PCBs build up in body fat and take years to break down.

Toxic pollutants

Greenpeace scientist Dr Paul Johnston said: "Ultimately all these practices lead to products that are consumed by human beings.

"We are maximising human exposure to these chemicals by promoting an artificial food chain."

PCBs are among the most toxic and persistent pollutants in existence.

They are also thought to be responsible for so-called "gender bending" effects because they mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Studies indicate the chemicals can cause cancer, decreased sperm counts, deformed genitals and sterility.

The World Health Organisation is sufficiently concerned about the potential consequences to have cut its guidelines on the recommended intake of dioxins.

Limits cut

But UK Government food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, has not followed this lead.

The agency's website points out the potential health benefits of eating oily fish - but makes no mention of potential dangers.

And food safety expert Professor Hugh Pennington told the BBC: "Salmon is an extremely good food, and some studies show it can help prevent heart attacks.

"But if there are small amounts of chemicals then one must counsel moderation."

He said that one portion of salmon a week was unlikely to cause any harm, even to young people.

However, he added: "We should be monitoring the salmon perhaps more often and we should be making sure that what goes into the fish doesn't contain these chemicals, then there isn't a problem".

A spokesman for the Fishmeal and Oil Manufacturers Association said it was aware of chemical concentration in feed.

Salmon farmers were looking at ways of reprocessing fishmeal to reduce toxic contamination, he added.