24 April 2001
MAFF snubbed disease detector

By Alistair Driver

BRITAIN snubbed a US government offer of a machine which can detect foot-and-mouth in two hours, claims an expert on the disease.

Hundreds of thousands of uninfected animals slaughtered as dangerous contacts could have been spared if ministers had taken up the offer, says Fred Brown.

But the Ministry of Agriculture said it was “too busy and overwhelmed” to consider the offer from the US Department of Agriculture, claims Prof Brown.

Prof Brown, who works at the USDA Plum Island Animal Disease Centre, told journalists on Tuesday (24 April) that the offer was made back on 9 March.

“Its a disgrace to cull animals when there is no need,” he said.

“Infected animals can be identified within two to three hours, and before they show signs of the disease.”

Pyres to dispose of large quantities of stock, which have sparked health fears, would have been rendered unnecessary had the device been used, he claimed.

“For Britain to have potentially carcinogenic pyres all over the landscape is as unacceptable as it is unnecessary,” said Prof Brown.

He said the device would have replaced taking blood samples to laboratories for testing, a process which can take over 24 hours.

The hand-held device was developed by a small US company which has tested it for foot-and-mouth detection at Plum Island.

The user puts a small sample of blood into the machine, presses a button and it comes up with the result, said Prof Brown.

Prof Brown was speaking at a briefing in London on Tuesday (24 April) called by farmers Bill and Alicia Eykyn to put forward the case for vaccination.

He said that it is perfectly possible to distinguish between infected and uninfected stock and stressed there was no danger to humans from vaccination.

Simon Barteling, a foot and mouth consultant from Holland, warned that if animals were not vaccinated, the disease could return in the autumn.

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