Devon

Call for action on foot and mouth

Disinfectant during foot and mouth
Image caption Disinfectant is sprayed on hay to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease in 2001

A leading South West farmer has called for new measures to stop another outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the UK.

Anthony Gibson, former regional director of the National Farmers Union, wants disinfectant footbaths for travellers arriving from problem areas.

The last crisis in 2001 cost about £8bn compensation to the livestock industry.

Deputy Chief Vet Alick Simmons said border controls were already robust enough to prevent the disease.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has produced advice on preventing the spread of FMD in the UK.

But Mr Gibson said there should be tougher controls for travellers arriving from countries like Bulgaria, South Korea and Japan which have reported outbreaks of the disease.

Disinfectant was used widely in the UK in 2001 to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mr Gibson said: "FMD is unlikely to spread to the UK from Bulgaria through direct contact between livestock, let alone from South Korea.

"But the more FMD virus there is circulating in any part of the world, the greater the danger of it reaching these shores, be it on the shoes of a returning holidaymaker, on the inside of a shipping container, or in illegally imported food.

"I've do doubt that we would be more resilient in the event that foot and mouth disease arrived here.

"But we're not any better prepared to prevent foot and mouth disease getting here in the first place."

Mr Simmons said: "I think it's rather preposterous to consider that holidaymakers returning from Turkey are a substantial threat to livestock of the South West or any part of the UK."

A Defra spokesperson said: "The UK's disease controls are targeted to areas in which we can make a difference.

"There is no evidence to suggest disinfecting passengers' feet would lower the risk of foot and mouth disease entering the country and with 65m people going through Heathrow every year it would cripple the air industry."

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