9 March 2001

BBC special slammed

FARMERS have slated the BBC for potentially misleading the public in a prime-time television programme on foot-and-mouth disease.

The Foot-and-Mouth Special, shown on Friday (Mar 2), asked viewers to respond by telephone to the question: "Do you trust British food?"

National Pig Association regional manager Ian Campbell, who featured on the show, said the presenters were genuinely shocked when the vote came out 80% to 20% in favour of British farming.

He said when the result came through, presenter Philippa Forrester said off-camera: "Are you sure thats right and not meant to be the other way round."

Mr Campbell said: "I was very annoyed that they took an issue like foot-and-mouth disease and turned it into a debate about food safety on farm. Foot-and-mouth is an animal disease, not a human health issue."

Farm minister Nick Brown and NFU president Ben Gill were part of a panel, while key food industry figures like MAFF chief vet Jim Scudamore and Food Standards Agency chairman Sir John Krebs were in the audience. But Mr Campbell said there was no intention to engage them in sensible debate.

The NFU agreed that the BBC had wasted an opportunity to give a clear explanation of the complex issue by resorting to sound-bites.

"They ended up complicating matters by confusing foot-and-mouth disease with a food scare," a spokeswoman said. She added that the vote result was a huge endorsement for British farming. &#42