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Email from the Countess of Cranbrook  Feb 12 2007
It is encouraging that the journalists are showing so much more initiative and commonsense than they did during fmd - but depressing that the gvt and its agencies are lagging behind. It took so long for the authorites to catch up with what the Suffolk Man on the Holton Street was saying about the Hungarian Connection, right from the beginning.
 
I had a good look at some of the relevant websites last night. One particularly good one is   http://h5n1-theses-hypotheses.over-blog.com/categorie-546848.html
 
From there I found - The situation in Rumania.. On May 19 the Rumanian President was asking the intelligence serviced to investigate illegal imports of bird flu-suspect poultry.   At the time the virus had been confirmed in Rumania in 18 places in 8 counties  The same website contains a May 16 report from Andrew Bounds in Brussels, describing the various ways of importing illegal Chinese chickens - either with false papers (usually showing Brazil as country of origin) or hidden in vegetable consignments. The site also contains Elizabeth Rozenthal's Int.Herald Trib. article, where she describes  the police raid  on a Milan warehouse (not the raid where they found 3 million packages of illegal chicken meat from China but one where they discovered bags of  unlabelled, refrigerated ducks feet).
 
And then another instance was a shipment in southern Italy where illegal poultry products were found stuffed into shoes. Another instance was a s hipment of 260 tons of meat, distributed among several containers, transiting at a port in Calabria - destined for Modova and then probably onward shipment back into the EU. The area in Hungary where the virus was identified is relatively close to Rumania....
 
 
I am attaching an article I wrote for Country Life (5.4.01) entitled 'Importing New Risks to Man and Beast.'  I had a look at it last night and was surprised how relevant it is to today's situation - particularly the penultimate paragraph. I finish up with the words 'The shorter the food chain, the more traceable the product and the more manageable the risk.' And I didn't know half what I know now.
 
 
Caroline

 

 

 
 
Caroline

 

 

Country Life. (April 5 2001)

 

Importing New Risks to Man and Beast

 

By Caroline Cranbrook

 

A hundred years ago infectious disease was an ever-present threat. The danger receded with advances in medicine, hygiene and standards of living. But our vulnerability remains. The Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth epidemics have brought this sharply back into focus.  And the same food supply system that has exposed our livestock to disease could easily endanger us all.

 

The Ministry of Agriculture has tentatively identified pig swill containing illegally imported meat as being the source of the virus Pan Asia O (recorded in 30 countries in the past 18 months).  Feeding swill to pigs will be banned. But this does not address the root of the problem: the source of the meat that is in the swill. Where does it come from? What other, possibly lethal, viruses could it introduce?

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There are two important sources of zoonoses (animal diseases which also infect man). Firstly, equatorial Africa: many dangerous viruses, such as the Lassa, Ebola, Marburg, hepatitis and HIV occur here, often originating in monkeys and infecting other species. The second source is southern China, where our own influenza viruses and most FMD originate, as do other animal influenzas which can cross-infect horses, cloven-hoofed stock, poultry and man.

 

We live on an island with highly regulated food production standards. We should be well protected from most of these viruses. But because meat is imported from all over the world, both legally and illegally, we are exposed to disease from infected meat.  

 

There are three main infection routes. There is legally imported meat from countries which have recently had FMD but with FMD-free zones. After the 1997 epidemic, the Newcastle Report recommended that we should never again import meat from FMD areas. It is ironic that we are still importing meat from South American countries that come into this category. The Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay have all had FMD in 2001, as have South Africa, Swaziland and Greece.   

 

Secondly, there are illegal imports. Preserved meat from China, where FMD is endemic, is sold in UK outlets. Meat is also smuggled in fruit and vegetable lorries. Suspect sources include Georgia, the Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, where breeding herds are being massively depleted and their meat exported for hard currency. Once in Europe it is absorbed into the black market and sold cheaply, often to catering from where it may go to schools and local authorities. UK is targeted because of sterlings high value.  No one has quantified the scale of this trade but the National Beef Association believes it to be substantial.

 

Thirdly, and most alarming, is the smuggling of bush-meat, usually by airline passengers from equatorial Africa arriving at British airports. This includes antelopes, apes, monkeys, reptiles and fish. It is often uncooked and often rotten, oozing blood and maggots. Much is later sold. 2500 kg was seized on just one flight from Nigeria. Scientists, the Association of Port Authorities and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health all want import controls to be improved urgently. 

 

The long, often unknown and sometime illegal food chain of imported meat makes it difficult to regulate. It carries with it very real health risks to man and to animals. Even if the meat is imported legally, it may not have been produced to our own Food Standards Agency criteria. I personally believe that meat is an inappropriate product to be traded as a global commodity unless there is foolproof risk control, traceability and proven production standards equivalent to our own. Much imported meat does not match these criteria but all meat on sale, including  all supermarket and catering meat, should do so. Health must come before cheapness.

 

The shorter the food chain, the more traceable the product and the more manageable the risk. When I interviewed the Best Country Butcher finalists this year, every one of them knew the farmer who had produced his meat - and not one of those farmers had ever had BSE on their farm.

 

Immediately, government must invest in preventing illegal meat imports. At the same time, meat imports should cease from all countries currently infected with FMD, even those with FMD-free zones. A publicly funded specialist centre for vaccine research and production should be established: vaccines will be needed in the future for new FMD strains and for other diseases, new and old. We must have a vaccine policy. FMD is a warning to us all. This catastrophe is destroying our livestock industry and much else besides. Unless we impose tighter controls on imported meat, our own and our animals health remains at risk from the risk of imported lethal infection.

 

We must also Buy British - and Buy Local. Supermarkets must shorten their supply chains. To make this possible, government must examine, restructure and support the infrastructure of the meat and livestock industry, so that once again it can be the main supplier of meat for the nation.   

 

Caroline Cranbrook is a Suffolk farmer and campaigns on rural issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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