10 July 1998

Sludge safety risk research

RESEARCH into the potential food safety risks associated with spreading sewage sludge and other organic waste on farm land is to be financed by the government.

In its response to the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committees report on the establishment of the food standards agency, MAFF said: "The government recognises the potential risk of the transfer of pathogens to food via the spreading of sewage sludge and other organic wastes on agricultural land.

"The government, therefore, proposes to carry out a structured programme of further research and risk assessment into the use of all organic waste on land, and will continue to keep these matters under close and continuous review."

The government would also be amending the regulations on the use of sewage sludge in agriculture, and the associated code of practice, in light of a comprehensive review of the controls on the use of sewage sludge, which is nearing completion.

Responding to the committees recommendation that the use of antibiotics as livestock growth promoters should be banned, the government pointed out that it was advised by a number of scientific committees on such matters. Further recommendations were expected later this year from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, and the government assured the select committee that it would continue to act on scientific advice.

The select committee had also suggested that public confidence in the safety of food, in respect of pesticide and veterinary medicine residues, would be enhanced if the surveillance programmes were carried out by the food standards agency entirely independently of the authorities responsible for licensing the products.

The government agreed that it would now reconsider its views on how that could be achieved.