New Laws Will Never Kill Food Bug Threat; E COLI REPORT: Pennington Demands Tougher Rules on Handling Meat from Farm to Fork

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The Pennington report yesterday called for huge changes to the way meat is handled in a bid to reduce the threat of E Coli.

But Professor Hugh Pennington admitted the killer food bug can NEVER be stamped out.

And he caused fury among butchers and families of E Coli victims by not recommending a food agency be set up to monitor safety.

Recommendations in his long-awaited report on food safety and management were ALL backed by the Government.

Professor Pennington was NOT investigating the causes of the Lanarkshire outbreak which claimed 18 lives.

He said: "I wouldn't like anyone to get the impression that if everything is implemented from the report it will be the end of E Coli as a hazard."

He said his guidelines on the way meat is handled "from the farm to the fork" would prevent another epidemic but that we can only reduce the risk.

His probe began after 18 people died and more than 500 were affected across central Scotland.

The Aberdeen University boffin looked edgy as he sat next to Scots Secretary Michael Forsyth at the press conference.

And despite referring to the "light touch" of inspectors when dealing with some cases he rejected claims that they were to blame.

He also refused to debate the merits of an independent food agency.

He said: "We did not have either the information or the time to consider the agency in details."

Pennington and Forsyth both insisted they couldn't speak about Wishaw butcher John Barr for legal reasons.

He has been charged with culpable and reckless conduct over the outbreak.

Pennington's report calls for sweeping changes to food handling arrangements.

Everyone from primary school pupils to farm workers to abattoir staff will learn about basic food safety.

Supermarkets and corner shops will face strict new rules on display and preparation of raw and cooked meats.

Experts reckon the changes could cost some shops up to pounds 20,000 - and could push some small businesses to the wall.

Forsyth claimed: "I believe our food safety legislation and the arrangements for dealing with outbreaks need to reflect these new challenges."

But butchers and farmers were united in condemning Forsyth and Pennington.

Douglas Scott, former president of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association, said: "I would have thought there was an opportunity for a food safety advisory body.

"They have had long enough to think about it."

George Lyon, vice president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, backed him.

He fumed: "Most of the industry was behind an independent food safety agency. But where is it?

"We believe our beef beats the world and we want world-beating safety measures. …