20 September 2001
All-clear for virus-pyre milk

By Isabel Davies

CANCER-CAUSING chemicals in food produced near to foot-and-mouth pyres are within normal levels, according to food safety watchdogs.

The Food Standards Agency gave the all-clear to milk and whole milk products from within 2km of a pyre, withdrawing previous advice to avoid them.

In May the agency had warned that there may be a “slightly higher, although very small” risk from milk produced by cattle close to pyres.

But a three-month testing programme has established that levels of toxic dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in milk are within the normal range.

Samples were taken around pyres in Anglesey, Cornwall and Devon.

Apart from a couple of exceptions not thought to be linked to pyres, all were within normal levels.

Sir John Krebs, FSA chairman, said: “From the tests conducted there appears to be no effect on food from foot-and-mouth pyres.

“This is particularly reassuring for area like the south-west of England and Wales where there were a lot of foot-and-mouth pyres.”

The testing programme has also included products such as eggs, chickens, butter, lamb and ice cream. Soil and herbage have also been tested.

Concentrations of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in all samples were mostly within the normally expected ranges.

Dioxins and PCBs are persistent in the environment and common at low levels in food. Long-term exposure at high levels can increase cancer risks.

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