26 June 2000
Company seeks assurances on anthrax

By FWi staff

UNITED MILK is seeking assurances that fears of an anthrax outbreak pose no threat to its proposed 40 million dairy processing plant in Wiltshire.

The call comes after Farmers Weekly revealed that land close to the site at Westbury has a history of anthrax outbreaks stretching back 40 years.

The United Milk factory is planned for a site two miles downstream from an old tannery where hides infected with anthrax are said to be buried.

Four years ago, three cattle died of the disease at Storridge Farm, close to the proposed factory and adjacent to a stream which runs past the site.

Local people believe the cattle died after anthrax spores, which had lain dormant for years, were disturbed during ditch-dredging work at Biss Brook.

United Milk now wants assurances from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment Agency and local officials that there is no risk to human health.

The company is also taking expert advice from Peter Turnbull, previously head of the anthrax section at a Department of Health research centre.

Dr Turnbull now works for Arjemptor Technology, a firm based at Porton Down, home of the governments Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

He has close connections with the agency whose work includes investigating the use of anthrax as a biological weapon used in warfare.

Dr Turnbull is currently in the USA. But a spokesman for United Milk said he had told the company there was “absolutely no hazard” from the anthrax.

United has secured 35m of conditional funding for the factory which it claims will be the biggest custom-made milk-processing plant in the UK.

It launched a share offer in a bid to raise a further 20m from dairy farmers earlier this month and has extended the offer deadline by two weeks to 4 July.