10 July 2000
Farmers to cooperate in E coli fight

By FWi staff

FARMERS in Scotland have agreed to cooperate with a new taskforce set up to minimise outbreaks of E coli food poisoning north of the border.

The agreement was made following talks between the officials from the Food Standards Agency and the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS).

Jim Walker, NFUS president, said the union wanted to increase consumer confidence and give people even more reasons for buying Scottish produce.

“Farmers, like consumers, must have authoritative and independent advice on ensuring food safety, and I believe the FSA offers the best route to providing that.”

A taskforce to combat E coli was announced by the Scottish Food Standards Agency and the Scottish Executive Health Department last month.

The new group was set up after researched showed that sources of E coli infection included contact with farm animals and contaminated farmland.

Mr Walker said agency officials would be invited to attend regional forums later this year in a bid to allow farmers face-to-face access to the best advice.

George Paterson, director of the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, said he looked forward to the farming industry playing a key role in the new group.

“The Food Standards Agency and the NFUS have a shared agenda – high-quality food standards are good for the consumer and good for farmers,” he said.

“Consumers benefit from knowing the food on their plate is safe to eat, while farmers reap the rewards from increased consumer confidence in their produce.”

Earlier last month, 18 youngsters who attended a Scout camp in Scotland were confirmed as having contracted E coli later found in sheep droppings.

The worlds worst E coli outbreak, which resulted in the deaths of 21 people, occurred in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1996.

Almost half the dairy herds in England and Wales carry the deadly E coli 0157 bug, according to figures unveiled at a recent conference in Scotland.

Hugh Pennington, a leading expert on the bacterium, has called for parents to keep children under five away from farms because of the high risk of infection.