Return of OP dip still months away

18 August 2000

Return of OP dip still months away

By Isabel Davies

S heep dip manufacturers have warned that organophosphate dips are unlikely to return to the market until mid-November – despite the government giving the go-ahead for their return under interim arrangements.

In the long term ministers maintain the containers must be redesigned so they have closed delivery systems which minimise exposure to OP concentrate. But the government revealed on Tuesday (15 August) that the dips could be brought back to the market in the short term if a vented tap was fitted to containers and labels were amended.

Announcing the move, junior farm minister Baroness Hayman said the advice reflected "very real concerns about animal welfare in the absence of OP sheep dips from the range of products available to combat sheep scab." But she added that agreement to interim arrangements must be strictly time limited and would not extend beyond August 31 2001.

Baroness Hayman met with officials from the National Office of Animal Health, which represents OP manufacturers on Wednesday (Aug 16). After the meeting, NOAH director Roger Cook said the product was unlikely to be back on the market before mid-November.

"Companies will be wanting to get their products out earlier but it would be wrong to create false hope in farmers minds," said Mr Cook. There were a number of steps and procedures that needed to be completed both by manufacturers and the government and it would be extremely difficult to rush them.

Before OPs can be sold again, the Veterinary Products Committee must approve the wording of new labels. That wont be done until its next meeting on Sept 21. Mr Cook said: "There are processes that have to be gone through. Everyone needs to be satisfied that the interim arrangements do satisfy safety concerns."

The news that the government is prepared to see the return of the controversial dips has certainly met a mixed reaction. Paul Tyler, the Lib-Dem MP who has campaigned on behalf of OP sufferers described the move as a "calamitous cop-out". He added: "The manufacturers are still trying to flog off their obsolete, ineffective and dangerous products, and have totally failed to develop safer and more satisfactory alternatives."

But the National Sheep Association commended the government for taking some positive action. Chief executive John Thorley said: "This is good news for the many sheep farmers who wish to use OPs to treat their flocks." &#42

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