03 March 1998
Controls tightened on animal pathogens

CONTROLS on scientists handling dangerous animal pathogens have been tightened following fears that animal diseases might escape laboratories and cause havoc in the environment.

Jeff Rooker, food safety minister, said the Government would extend the list of specified controlled animal pathogens to prevent the accidental release of ghastly animal diseases in the UK.

“Controlling the spread of animal disease is vital in protecting the health of all animals, particularly farm livestock. These regulations will ensure potentially dangerous organisms are handled with proper care,” he said.

Laboratories and scientific establishments must be licensed before they may hold or handle any listed pathogens, or nucleic acid capable of producing such a pathogen.

The new list will now include Brucella abortus (which causes brucellosis), Equine morbillivirus, and Japanese encephalitis virus. The order also extends controls to cover nucleic acid which may be able to produce one of the controlled pathogens. The extended list takes the number of specified animal pathogens under safeguard to 14.

Mr Rooker said the purpose of the order was to prevent the introduction and spread of specified animal diseases into Great Britain which are not endemic and which, if introduced, would cause serious disease and economic loss to the livestock industry.