Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Assurance over New Suspected FMD Leak; Farming

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Assurance over New Suspected FMD Leak; Farming

Article excerpt

Byline: By Sam Wood

A"PROBABLE" new leak of footand-mouth disease has been discovered at the Merial Animal Health facility in Pirbright, Surrey, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said last night.

The North-East NFU said it was concerned by the leak and biosecurity at the site.

The virus is believed to have escaped through a leaking valve last week, but inspectors have been "assured" it has not been released into the environment, Mr Benn added in a Commons written statement.

The Pirbright site, which also contains the Government's Institute for Animal Health, was the source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in August.

The latest incident comes after the licence to use live viruses for vaccine production was restored to Merial on November 6 after the summer outbreak.

New measures were put in place to improve the drainage at the site, with both heat and chemical treatment to destroy live viruses.

But Mr Benn told MPs: "On Monday, November 19, Merial discovered a shortfall in the quantity of virus recovered from production batches from the previous week."

He said operations were immediately stopped and citric acid was used to disinfect any virus which might have leaked from the centrifuge.

Mr Benn said safety measures require two operators to certify the valve is shut when the machine is used, and that the system is regularly inspected.

"Despite these measures Merial judged that the valve had been leaking, allowing an unintended probable release of live FMD virus into the contained drainage system, which was then pumped to the final chemical treatment facility without being heat treated," Mr Benn said.

On Tuesday Merial arranged for the valve to be replaced and tested the centrifuge to ensure it was now working properly.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has suspended Merial's licence and an inspection team visited the site yesterday morning. …

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