15 March 2001 | Mark Whitehead
Supply chains in the livestock industry will come under the spotlight in a government inquiry into the recent foot and mouth outbreak.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) confirmed this week the long journeys that animals were carried between farms and abattoirs would be among the issues investigated.
Agriculture minister Nick Brown has asked Maff experts to consider whether current structures in the agriculture industry could make it more vulnerable to the spread of disease. The inquiry's findings would be implemented, he said.
Farmers have welcomed the investigation. Stephen Rossides, head of food health and science services at the National Farmers Union, said: "We will be happy to look at what lessons there may be for the UK livestock industry."
Options could include encouraging farmers to shorten the distances animals have to travel to abattoirs in an attempt to make the supply chain more local and reduce the risk of infection spreading.
Relationships between retailers and suppliers will also be investigated. Prime minister Tony Blair caused uproar by accusing supermarkets of having farmers in an armlock.
"Improvements in the supply chain in recent years have been responsible for a huge rise in hygiene standards," said a spokesman for Tesco.