Page last updated at 18:16 GMT, Saturday, 19 September 2009 19:16 UK

Petting animals and hygiene: Your views

Sign at Godstone Farm, Surrey
Forty-nine cases of E.coli have been linked to a Surrey farm

Microbiologist Prof Hugh Pennington has said parents should not allow under-fives to touch animals at petting farms, amid E.coli fears involving four sites. Other experts have insisted thorough handwashing is the key.

Hundreds of people have e-mailed the BBC News website in response, with the majority expressing opposition to a ban on the petting of animals. You can read a selection below.

YOUR VIEWS

I was born in 1944 and was brought up on a farm. We never had any of this sort of trouble. But I was taught to wash my hands at a very early age. My parents would not give me any dinner until I had done so. I was allowed to wander freely as long as I washed my hands afterwards.
Catherine Cave, Milton Keynes, England

This sort of suggested ban makes me very angry. I was born in the country and handled animals from an early age. Millions of children have visited farms and gained an education and had a lot of fun. Proper guidelines and procedures should be put in place rather than ridiculous suggestions like these.
Andy Pedrick, Poole

This is unbelievable! I grew up in Hong Kong and as a toddler walked through the open animal markets. I never got sick because of it. My family own farms in this country. I used to play with the goats, cows, chickens and never got sick. Children need to be exposed to animals for their education. Children need to be exposed to dirt so that we don't end up allergic to everything in the future.
Calum , Ipswich

Perhaps it is because I ate my share of dirt that I didn't get ill
Nigel , Barnstaple

Why don't we wrap up all children in cotton wool? Alternatively let them live. Hazards are everywhere. At some point a child will get hurt. That is regrettable but it is life. I grew up on a farm which was far less concerned about hygiene than these sites. Perhaps it is because I ate my share of dirt that I didn't get ill. Children are meant to be children - and this includes experiencing animals.
Nigel , Barnstaple

My children were born and grew up on a farm. I was born and raised in the countryside with dogs and horses. Our immunities are built from contact with people and the environment. Children who live in "sterile" houses where everything is disinfected and have no contact with certain bacteria and are bound to get infected.
Jo Pick, Aberdeen, Scotland

The farm is the factory-floor of the agriculture industry. Like all factory floors, there are dangers. Parents would not take their toddlers to "pet" the car assembly line, or the steel blast furnace or the chemical process machinery. They would realise that such factory floors were no place for toddlers. It is different for children who grow up on farms, they learn from the age of dot what is and what is not safe.
Jonathan Rhodes, Rye, East Sussex

E.coli
To stop toddlers from being able to interact with animals is madness
Jenny Davies, Poole

To stop toddlers from being able to interact with animals is madness. Far better, to stop parents from being so namby-pamby about their offspring and allow a bit of dirt to cross their threshold once in a while. Maybe then we won't have a generation of children who are too frightened to interact with animals. The millions of children who have grown up on farms are testament to the fact that it isn't the animals that are the problem!
Jenny Davies, Poole

The worst thing people can do is keep their children away from animals. Country kids, who have been in contact with animals from an early age build up almost total resistance to the common forms of bugs. The old saying about "eat a peck of dirt each day" makes total sense. Don't be afraid. Let the children build up immunity from an early age
Jon, UK

This is absurd. My children had great fun and learned a lot at farm parks. Having tactile contact with the animals is essential to the experience. These establishments provide good hand-washing facilities. All that's needed is better parental instruction and supervision and a supply of disinfectant wipes to clean the child's hands straight after they pat the donkey.
Zax, Amersham, UK

How do you suppose the rest of us learned how to raise animals for food? Hygiene is the key. Wash your hands! Then you will be safe. Children already have no idea where their food comes from. These farms are vital and help to address that.
Debbie, Tunbridge Wells (but I used to live in the country)

Strange how kids who grow up on farms surrounded by farmyard animals are far healthier than "townies".
Steve Howell, Cardiff, UK

I'm sorry but this is health and safety gone mad. I grew up on a farm with cows, horses, cats, dogs, geese, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks - and the occasional extra. I would run around get covered in muck and mud from a very young age with no ill effect. In fact I was very very rarely ever ill as a child. Today I still have horses and am mucking them out every day. Yes I always wash my hands as soon as I walk in the door at home. But I often eat and drink at the yard to no ill effect. I am a fit and healthy person and think that the exposure as a child especially to dirt helped strengthen my immune system.
Katie, Devon



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