East Midlands NFU has called on DEFRA to assure the farm industry that the disposal of animal by-products removed from the food chain, is under control.

The call follows the recent discovery of a fire in a 15,000t pile of meat and bonemeal that had been smouldering for three weeks in a private store at Faldingworth Airfield, near Market Rasen, Lincs.

Officials from DEFRA, the Rural Payments Agency – which contracts temporary storage for MBM derived from the Over 30 Months Scheme – local planners and environmental protection officers were all unaware of the store until complaints were received from local residents of noxious fumes.

Jack Ward, regional director of NFU East Midlands, said the news came as a complete surprise and that he felt farming had been let down by officials further up the food chain.

“Given the moves to eradicate BSE, introduction of the OTMS and Date-Based Export Scheme – all to ensure food safety and support consumer confidence in British meat – it comes as a surprise that issues like these crop up,” added Mr Ward.

A lack of information from DEFRA officials has also hampered efforts to tackle the blaze and to set-up a public health action plan, explained Wayne Lambert, environmental protection officer with the local authority, West Lindsey District Council.

“There appears to have been no control put in place by DEFRA or its agencies over the storage of this material.

It has slipped through the net,” said Mr Lambert.

DEFRA officials claim it has no direct responsibility for the material.

The MBM in this incident is classed Category 2 – considered high risk, containing diseased animal carcasses and specified risk material banned from the human food chain, according to DEFRA.

The material does not require specific planning permission to be stored in quantities up to 60,000t if the holding site has a standard wholesale storage planning consent, explained Mr Lambert.

MBM is usually destroyed by incineration. DEFRA officials said it has no figures detailing stockpiles held.