THE NATIONAL Audit Office has warned that DEFRA still has work to do to make sure it is ready for another foot-and-mouth outbreak.

In a report published on Wed (Feb 2), the NAO said that the disease was still common in many parts of the world, and trade and travel meant that another outbreak was possible at any time.

Sir John Bourn, NAO comptroller and auditor general, said: “Continued vigilance is essential. DEFRA is now much better prepared than in 2001, but it still has work to complete.”

The NAO report said that preparedness for another outbreak was much improved in terms of contingency planning, staff training and the availability of vaccines.

DEFRA‘s disease control strategy was also better documented and further research into disease control strategies was under way, it said.

But the report pointed out IT systems needed work and the government had still not worked out a new compensation system for culled animals.

Scientific opinion on the relative effectiveness of vaccination and continuous culling also remained divided which could cause problems.