Lab slammed in FMD report

An independent review of the 2007 foot-and-mouth outbreak has described the Pirbright laboratory at the heart of the leak as "shabby and dilapidated".

The report, by Dr Iain Anderson, which was released today, said the leak should never have escaped the government run facility in Surrey. But it added that the handling of the 2007 outbreak was better than in 2001 and there were still lessons to be learned. "On balance the positive outweighs the negatives," he said.

The Review identifies bad regulation by a number of organisations, including Defra by looking at the nine major lessons learned from 2002 Report and majored on one that had not been learnt which was the use of data and information systems "a crucial aspect of an effective response strategy and one that needs to be addressed as soon as possible."

The government has now said Defra will no longer regulate the facility.

Dr Anderson said that the ambiguities and wrangling over departmental leadership that have bedevilled progress in this area need to be tackled and not left in doubt any longer. "I believe Defra will properly support well argued, peer reviewed research programme if it is confident that value will be delivered and budget pressures allow."

But he also urged the Prime Minister to ensure that appropriate new arrangements are brought into being as soon as practicable if Defra is constrained by lack of funding.

Dr Anderson called for the creation of a new body - the National Institute of Infectious Diseases - to run the laboratories in future.

Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association welcomed the report. He said: "We support the recommendations made by the Anderson team. The lack of progress since 2001 on issues related to livestock data is disappointing and it is critical that sufficient priority and resources are assigned to this work.

"The key lesson must be to ensure that everything possible is done to eliminate the risks associated with the circumstances which led to this outbreak.

"We are pleased that Anderson has recognised the impact on the wider food chain and it is vital that these impacts are truly reflected in future policy decisions."

Hilary Benn, Defra secretary, said that the government would carefully consider the report's recommendations and work with partners to decide what further steps were needed to ensure Defra was as prepared as possible to prevent and control animal disease outbreaks in the future.

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