Keep toddlers off farms Pennington

21 February 2000

Keep toddlers off farms — Pennington

By FWi staff

YOUNG children should be banned from visiting farms, claims a leading food safety expert.

Professor Hugh Pennington told the BBC Countryfile programme that children under the age of five should not be allowed on farms because of the risk of E.coli infection.

He said: “Children have had such a hard time of it, it1s hardly worth exposing them to the risk.”

But John Newton-Jones, chairman of the National Farmers Union national farmers for schools group, says this is an over-reaction.

He told the Radio 4 Farming Today programme that the situation had been reviewed two years ago with the Department of Health and the Health and Safety Executive.

All had agreed that provided correct precautions – proper supervision and handwashing facilities – are in place, under-fives can visit farms.

“No new evidence has come to light, to my knowledge, for Professor Pennington to come out with the statement he has,” said Mr Newton-Jones.

He added: “Weve now got 14 million people visiting farms each year and numbers are growing all the time.

“There is more risk of contracting these bugs in a public park or other public places.”

Prof Pennington led the inquiry into the outbreak of E.coli in Lanarkshire, which killed 18 people.

Last month, six-year Tom Dowling of north London, who contracted the bug and was severely brain-damaged following a visit to an open farm, was awarded a six-figure sum in settlement.

Total damages are expected to reach 2 million.

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