18 April 2001
NFU blocks vaccine plan

By Alistair Driver and Johann Tasker

THE National Farmers Union is blocking government plans to introduce emergency vaccination against foot-and-mouth.

Downing Street has agreed “in principle” that vaccination should take place, but added that it needed widespread support from farmers before doing so.

NFU president Ben Gill insists that there are still too many unanswered questions over any vaccination programme.

It is likely that livestock producers in areas free from foot-and-mouth would face extended restrictions if such a programme was introduced.

Farmers would have to wait at least one year for Britain to regain its disease-free status if livestock were inoculated, the Ministry of Agriculture has indicated.

Brussels may allow British meat exports to re-start before then, but many countries buy meat and livestock only if it is “disease-free”.

Animal and carcass exports would therefore be possible, but it remains to be seen how much meat and livestock would be shipped.

Britain could, in theory, apply for uninfected regions to be given their disease-free status back before the 12 months expired, said a MAFF spokesman.

But this is would be a horribly complex process and the government is nowhere near to pursuing it, he told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“Britain is not in a position to go for a regional policy,” he said.

“In theory we could do it, but if you look at the map, apart from northern Scotland, it is difficult to find any region that is completely free.”

The Food Standards Agency has advised that milk and meat from vaccinated animals could be sold on the home market under certain conditions.

Agency officials are satisfied that the use of such a vaccine would not have any implications for safety.

The Veterinary Products Committee, which advises the government, has already assessed the vaccine to ensure it poses no threat to human health.

This was done in 1992, and again when the licence was renewed in 1997.

On both occasions, the committee was satisfied there would be no safety problems for anyone eating products from vaccinated animals.

But the NFU has voiced concern that meat from vaccinated livestock could still be seen as tainted by consumers and other farmers.

All milk would have to be heat-treated, and it is likely that inoculated animals would be banned from human consumption for 30 days after vaccination.

Any meat would then have to be heat-treated, stored separately from non-vaccinated meat, transported in sealed containers and de-boned.

Leading supermarkets are reported as saying they would be willing to sell unmarked vaccinated products in their stores if they were advised it was safe.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage