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Foot-and-mouth linked to toxic chemicals in milk
( 2001-05-26 13:53 ) (7 )

Toxic chemicals from pyres used to burn British livestock infected with foot-and-mouth disease could have found their way into dairy products, a government watchdog warned on Friday.

The Food Safety Agency (FSA) said that potentially harmful dioxins from the fires could have affected dairy cattle herds within two kilometres (1.2 miles) of the massive pyres.

It warned there was a small, though not definitively proven risk, that those chemicals could end up in fatty dairy products like whole milk, cream, soft cheese and yoghurt.

The risk is greater now because dairy cattle are being put out to pasture after wintering indoors, said the FSA. It said it would be carrying out further tests for contamination.

"A few thousand" people who buy fatty dairy products direct from farms were at a "slightly higher, although very small, additional risk," the FSA warned.

But the agriculture ministry said that every effort had been made to avoid putting the public at risk, and that it had taken expert advice on the safest ways to dispose of animal carcasses.

"We have been very concerned to reduce any risks to human health," said a spokeswoman. "But there were also risks from failing to deal with the backlog of carcasses remaining on farmyards."

More than two million animals have been slaughtered in Britain in an effort to curb the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

The disease does not generally affect humans, but there have been fears that the methods used to dispose of the animal carcasses could be damaging to human health.

People living near the pyres have said they were worried they could be affected after breathing in the smoke, while concerns have been expressed that leakage from mass burial sites could pollute the water supply.



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