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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Pyre milk given all-clear
cows grazing
There were fears over grazing near pyres
A warning about the safety of milk from farms surrounding foot-and-mouth pyres has been lifted by the Food Standards Agency.

There had been fears that toxic chemicals drifting in smoke from the massive fires had been ingested by cattle on nearby farms, and passed into milk supplies.

The agency has already given the all-clear to other forms of food produced in the areas surrounding the pyres.

Initial results of tests conducted by the agency suggested that levels of dioxins in milk from farms within 2km of a pyre might be slightly raised.

There appears to be no effect on food from foot-and-mouth pyres

Sir John Krebs, Food Standards Agency
It warned people drinking whole milk taken solely from cows in these areas to "consider varying the source of their milk" until testing was completed.

However, its final report says there appears to be "no effect" on food.

There was never any suggestion that the supermarket or dairy milk drunk by the vast majority of consumers might be contaminated, as mixing with large quantities of unaffected milk would render negligible any rise in dioxins.

Burning by-product

Dioxins are frequently released as a by-product of burning - car exhausts are one source.

They are believed to affect male fertility, and may even cause cancer if lifetime exposures are high.

Testers would expect to find them present in very low levels in cow's milk - and even human breast milk.

In all, the FSA tested 70 milk samples for traces of dioxins and other potentially harmful chemicals called PCBs.

All tests showed that levels of the chemicals were within normal levels.

Agency chairman Sir John Krebs said: "There appears to be no effect on food from foot-and-mouth pyres.

"This is particularly reassuring for areas like the south-west of England, and Wales, where there were a lot of pyres."

There has been controversy about both chosen methods of disposing of culled foot-and-mouth cattle.

Many nearby residents have protested about the gigantic pyres, and others remain concerned about burial sites, claiming that the rotting corpses could release harmful materials into local watercourses.

One prominent scientist suggested that culled herds might contain cattle infected with BSE - and drinking water contaminated with infected material might increase the risk of falling ill.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The agency insists it wasn't scaremongering"
See also:

05 Jul 01 | Health
Virus pyre dioxins 'not in food'
25 May 01 | Health
Cattle pyres 'contaminate milk'
24 Apr 01 | Health
Living in the shadow of a pyre
03 Jun 99 | Medical notes
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