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Minister Coughlan chairs FMD meeting

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today chaired a further meeting of her Department's National Disease Control Centre (NDCC) to review the latest developments relating to the FMD outbreak in Surrey and, in particular, the publication last night of the initial report of the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site.

Minister Coughlan acknowledged that the HSE had concluded that there was a 'real possibility' that the virus had been released by human movement. However, the Minister noted that this is an initial report and that the human movement involvement is being investigated further as a matter of urgency.

The Minister also reviewed the operation of the ban on the importation of live animals and products from GB and the certification requirements relating to such imports from Northern Ireland. Minister Coughlan said that the two Departments had worked very intensively over the past couple of days to put in place a system that would fully meet the requirements of the EU Commission Decision while, at the same time, minimising any disruption to north/south trade.

Senior officials of the Department also met representatives of the dairy industry this morning, principally to discuss the certification requirements for milk and dairy products coming from Northern Ireland. Further meetings are proposed with other sectors of the agri-food industry and farm bodies to discuss the current situation and the range of precautionary control measures currently in place.

The Minister said that officials from her Department are this afternoon in Brussels for a special meeting of the EU Commission Standing Committee on Animal Health and the Food Chain (SCoFCAH) at which the FMD outbreak in Britain would feature prominently.

Minister Coughlan said that she noted with interest the announcement this afternoon by the UK Chief Veterinary Officer that the movement of animals for slaughter would be permitted throughout Britain, other than in the protection and surveillance zones, with effect from midnight tonight as well as confirmation that cattle on a farm adjacent to that on which the second case of FMD had been confirmed were being culled on suspicion of the disease.

Minister Coughlan said that she and her officials would continue to closely monitor all developments in relation to the outbreak and to work very closely with colleagues in Northern Ireland in maintaining an all-island approach and she confirmed that she would be meeting her NDCC Management Committee again tomorrow morning.

8 August 2007

Date Released: 08 August 2007