Foot-and-mouth restrictions eased
By FWi staff
HEALTHY animals from areas infected with foot-and-mouth disease are to be approved for human consumption, the government has announced.
The new scheme, which aims to avert a domestic meat shortage, is expected to open on 23 April, said junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman.
Until now, animals from infected areas were banned from human consumption.
But, a new carcass stamp will allow healthy animals from 2098 farms within infected areas to be sold into the food chain.
Baroness Hayman said: “This is important in terms of [meat] markets and welfare movement schemes.”
But stock from farms within 3km of an infected holding will not be approved for human consumption, even if they are healthy.
It remains to be seen how many abattoirs will be willing to take part in the initiative, and whether supermarkets will be willing to sell the meat.
Abattoir owners may feel that slaughtering healthy livestock from infected areas may put them at risk from foot-and-mouth disease.
Supermarket sources are worried that selling meat from infected areas will harm fragile consumer confidence battered by TV images of burning livestock.
Ministry of Agriculture officials believe obtaining European Union approval for the scheme will be a formality.
Application forms been distributed to regional MAFF regional offices around the country, confirmed a ministry spokesman.
The scheme would ease animal welfare problems among healthy livestock trapped in fields on farms because of foot-and-mouth movement restrictions.
But it will face many practical problems, such as finding enough vets to inspect livestock, and the administrative task of keeping track of the animals.
Ministers will also be eager not to select livestock which may later have to be slaughtered if nearby farms subsequently fall victim to the epidemic.
Meanwhile, the government has partially lifted foot-and-mouth restrictions imposed around three farms in Northamptonshire, Somerset and Leicestershire.
Restrictions were relaxed around the farms because no cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed in either area for more than a month.
The Northamptonshire farm is at Wooton, the Somerset farm is at Bidisham, and the Leicestershire farm is at Stonesly.
All outbreaks were isolated cases.
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