Vion hits back at SA's MRSA claims

Dutch producers have hit back at claims by the Soil Association that a new strain of the superbug MRSA has developed among intensively farmed animals on

the Continent.

The SA is calling on the government to test UK livestock and meat for the bug and claimed there was a serious human health threat in the Netherlands, where 40% of Dutch pigs and 50% of Dutch pig farmers have been found to carry farm-animal MRSA, with the risk it could spread to the UK.

It blames the new strain of MRSA on high levels of antibiotics used in intensive farming.

Richard Young, SA policy adviser, said: "This new type of MRSA is spreading like wildfire across Europe, and we know it is transferring from farm animals to humans with serious health impacts. Concerned scientists have referred to this as 'a new monster'. Fortunately, it has not yet been found in UK livestock or imported meat, but then neither the government nor the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are looking for it."

But Rob Smith, head of marketing & communications at Vion, said MRSA was not new to the Continent and precautions are in place to ensure food safety: "If the SA's goal is publicity, they've achieved it. MRSA is not new, we have process control steps in our slaughterhouses and cutting and curing plants," he said.

Precautions in Vion plants include segregation of workers who deal with livestock and workers who process the meat, as well as full sterilisation of pig carcases in scalding tanks and flame ovens.

The FSA said it was aware of the issue and was keeping a watching brief on developments.

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