9 June 1995

Farms show greatest rise in rat infestation

INFESTATION by rats in England and Wales is getting worse, and farms have the highest rat populations.

The first national survey since the 1970s shows that rats have increased by 39% in homes generally, but by up to 48% in rural homes. Although the percentage in business premises has fallen from 6.5% to 5.4%, farms show up as the properties with the highest infestation rate at 42%.

However, as no farms were featured in the earlier survey it is not known if infestation on farms is deteriorating or improving.

The £50,000 survey, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, was funded by MAFF, the CIEH and three pest control companies.

It shows the vast majority of rat infestations occur outdoors, particularly in rural areas. The eastern region is by far the worst area, with 16.3% of all properties infested – more than double that in other parts of England and Wales. A breakdown of the figures reveals mixed and cereal farms have more rats than dairy or other livestock holdings.

Presenting the survey report on Tuesday, Graham Jukes of the CIEH warned that the rising number of rats and mice posed a serious problem of disease spread and economic damage. "We are concerned. We dont wish this to be another scare story: This is real," he said.

Liable under Act

Adrian Meyer from the governments Central Science Laboratory, Slough, said many farmers still did not realise they were liable under the new Food Safety Act to ensure food they produced did not become contaminated.

He advised all farmers who tried to tackle infestation problems themselves to read product labels carefully.

Keeping a Jack Russell or other terrier as a "ratter" was not advisable, as dogs or cats could become infected.

Peter Bullen