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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