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Mr. Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will detail the number of cases of United Kingdom produced cheeses in which listeria infection has been identified over the past 12 months ; if he will express that number as a proportion of the total United Kingdom cheese production over the same period ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 16 February 1989] : One case of listeriosis associated with United Kingdom produced cheese has been reported to the Public Health Laboratory Service in the past 12 months. Cheese production in the United Kingdom in 1987, the last year for which figures are available centrally, totalled 263,900 tonnes.
There has been a variety of published evidence indicating the risk associated with both unpasteurised and pasteurised soft cheeses. In particular, I draw the hon. Member's attention to the "Report of the WHO Informal Working Group on Foodborne Listeriosis", Geneva 15-19 February 1988 and "Occurrence in the UK of Listeria species in Raw Chicken and Soft Cheeses" published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology 1988 vol. 6. However, as indicated in his public statement on 10 February 1989, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has recently been taking further expert advice on the risks.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases of listeriosis have been attributed to (a) unpasteurised milk, (b) unpasteurised milk products, (c) pasteurised milk, and (d) pasteurised milk products in each of the last five years.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 16 February 1989] : Confirmed reports to the Public Health Laboratory Service show that in England and Wales there have been two cases of listeriosis associated with products made with unpasteurised milk, one in 1986 and one in 1988. In both cases, the milk was heated beyond pasteurisation temperatures during the manufacturing process. There have been no reports of listeriosis attributed to either pasteurised or unpasteurised milk, or to products made with pasteurised milk.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many instances have been notified to his Department of poisoning caused through the consumption of contaminated soft cheese or unpasteurised milk during each of the last three years.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 16 February 1989] : Confirmed cases of food poisoning associated with the consumption of soft cheese and unpasteurised milk reported to the Public Health Laboratory Service in the years from 1986-88 are as follows :
|Unpasteurised milk|Soft cheese ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1986 |347 |1 1987 |366 |- 1988 |<1>22 |1 <1> Provisional.
There has been a variety of published evidence indicating the risk associated with both unpasteurised and pasteurised soft cheeses. In particular, I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the "Report of the WHO Informal Working Group on Foodborne Listeriosis", Geneva 15-19 February 1988 and "Occurrence in the United Kingdom of Listeria species in Raw Chicken and Soft Cheeses" published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology 1988 volume 6. However, as he indicated in his public statement on 10 February 1989, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has recently been taking further expert advice on the risks.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 23 January 1989] : Studies on imported cooked prawns by the Public Health Laboratory Service between 1976 and 1986 show that a small number of the samples tested contained isolations of a wide variety of serotypes of salmonella. Any action on such imported produce is a matter for the port health authorities. In 1986 and 1988 there were no reported outbreaks of food poisoning associated with cooked prawns. In 1987 there were two reported outbreaks possibly associated with this food.
Ministers have agreed for advice from officials on the regulatory framework, including labelling that would be necessary for irradiation of food on general sale to be permitted in this country. This advice is expected shortly.
Mr. Donald Thompson : As I announced in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) on 19 January at column 314-15, I have no plans to do so. My officials have routinely inspected all protein processing plants to monitor their compliance with the Diseases of Animals (Protein Processing) Order 1981 which requires the manufacture of a salmonella-free product. A new statutory provision to stop the supply of salmonella-contaminated animal protein has been introduced recently and further control measures are under consideration.
Column 528medical or scientific staff in his Department with expertise in (a) egg production, (b) milk and cheese production, (c) food poisoning and (d) consumer demand there were in (i) 1979 and (ii) 1988.
(a) Egg production 418 325
(b) Milk and cheese production 473 377
(c) Questions relating to food poisoning are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. (d) Expertise in consumer demand is available widely in the Ministry for different commodities. Total staff numbers could not be ascertained without disproportionate cost.
Mr. Amos : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that British farmers receive the maximum allowable nationally funded element of the suckler cow premium once changes to the beef variable premium scheme have been agreed by the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The Government are considering the appropriate rate for the suckler cow subsidy in the light of the changes being made to the beef regime and will announce the rate in good time before the start of the 1989 scheme on 15 June.
Mr. Amos : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the method of payment of the special premium which is to be introduced to replace the beef variable premium scheme ;
(2) what male animals will qualify for the special premium after abolition of the beef variable premium scheme ; and how the numbers so entitled will be verified.
Mr. Donald Thompson : As a result of the agreement reached by the EC Council of Agriculture Ministers at its meeting on 23-24 January 1989, the United Kingdom's beef variable premium is to be replaced by a premium on male cattle paid at a rate of £28.42 per head up to a maximum of 90 head per producer.
The premium is payable once only in the lifetime of each animal. We have the option to pay the premium either on animals retained by the producer on his holding, or on animals sold by producers for slaughter whether sold direct to slaughterhouses or through liveweight auction markets. The Government are currently considering which of these two systems should be applied and the appropriate administrative arrangements for ensuring compliance with the 90 head limit. The legal texts implementing the arrangements have yet to be agreed and adopted by the Council. The intention is that the new arrangements should come into effect on 3 April 1989.
Mr. Amos : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the import from the United States of America of beef from animals where growth was artificially induced by hormone implants.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The import of beef from the United States of America has now been prohibited because the US authorities are not complying with the European Community's requirement that beef imports should be certified as derived from animals not treated with hormone growth promoters. The Government have consistently opposed the ban on hormones because we believe that it has no scientific basis. We are continuing to work for a solution to the trade difficulties with the United States which it has caused.
Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether those working in universities on research commissioned by his Ministry are required to sign a declaration under the Official Secrets Act ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Salmond : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) on what evidence he indicated that he was considering a ban on unpasteurised milk cheese production ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) what evidence he has that cheese produced from unpasteurised milk is less safe than that produced from pasteurised milk ; and if he will make a statement ;
(3) which representatives of the dairy products industry he consulted prior to his statements concerning soft cheese ; and if he will indicate the company or organisation with which each is associated.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the frequency and nature of contacts between his Ministry and North West Water in connection with the proposed construction of a long sea outfall from the Fylde coast.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Officials were informed of North West Water's work at an early stage. Before plans were drawn up MAFF was asked to provide information about fisheries in the Fylde coast area. After consultation with local fisheries organisations this information was provided with a view to seeking to ensure that interference with fisheries was avoided. MAFF has since sought from North West Water information about the possible locations of the discharge and the nature and likely effect of the effluent. The Ministry has now been formally consulted under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 on the proposed outfall.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how his Ministry intends to obtain sufficient baseline ecological data to enable it to form a view as to the necessity for consent limits for the proposed long sea outfall for the Fylde coast.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My Department undertakes a continuing programme of routine monitoring of contaminant levels in fish and shellfish. In addition, information would be obtained, as appropriate, from work undertaken by other relevant organisations.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what information is held by his Ministry on the virological quality of shellfish harvested in Morecambe bay and adjoining coastlines ;
(2) what information is held by his Ministry on the bacteriological quality of shellfish harvested in Morecambe bay and adjoining coastlines.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information is held by his Ministry on the chemical quality of shellfish harvested in Morecambe bay and adjoining coastlines, with particular reference to compounds identified as black, grey or red list.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Both shellfish and finfish from the Morecambe bay area are sampled as part of the Ministry's national monitoring programme. Samples of the edible mussel Mytilus edulis were collected in 1985 from Morecambe and Barrow-in-Furness and analysed for the metals mercury, cadmium, lead, copper and zinc, the pesticides HCH, HCB, dieldrin and DDT and PCBs. In addition a sample of brown shrimp (crangon crangon) was obtained from the Lune Deeps area in 1982 and analysed for metals.
Using the guidelines listed in appendix 3 of the MAFF aquatic environment monitoring report No. 16, a copy of which is in the Library of the House, contaminant levels found would not be considered to be elevated in any of these samples.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the potential for hydro- transportation of sediment-associated viruses from the proposed long sea outfall for the Fylde coast to shellfisheries in Morecambe bay and the adjoining coastlines.
Mr. Donald Thompson : This is one of the factors that the Ministry will take into account in providing comments on the proposal under the terms of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Relevant to the Ministry's consideration will be the design characteristics of the proposed outfall and the location of the shellfisheries concerned.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures are taken by his Ministry, and port or local council officials to ensure that meat landed in Great Britain for onward transhipment to a third country is not sold for use in Great Britain.
Column 531public health requirements. There are no health reasons, therefore, to require that meat in transit is not diverted for sale in Great Britain.
Mr. Donald Thompson : A very small proportion of compound animal feedingstuffs is imported. The majority of imports are of the raw materials including animal protein for incorporation into feedingstuffs. The importation of animal protein is already prohibited except under the authority of a licence. These licensing arrangements are being strengthened to further reduce the risk of contaminated products entering the country.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I will place in the Library the list of projects at Torry research station which we have identified for termination unless industry funding can be arranged. These projects are primarily concerned with the development of new products and processes. We will be continuing to fund work at Torry which is needed in support of Government policies for food safety and quality.
No near market projects are being carried out at my Department's other fisheries laboratories.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The number of veterinary officers permanently employed in all grades of the Ministry's state veterinary service throughout England, Scotland and Wales for each of the last 10 years is :
|Number --------------------- 1979 |580.5 1980 |578.5 1981 |563.5 1982 |557.0 1983 |549.0 1984 |539.5 1985 |527.5 1986 |506.5 1987 |464.5 1988 |444.5
Staff with veterinary qualifications who are recruited into the Ministry must be members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Mr. Donald Thompson : At present, a statistical sampling technique is used to detect salmonella enteritidis in poultry which ensures a very high confidence level of detecting the disease. Statutory provisions for the bacteriological monitoring of poultry laying flocks are to be introduced shortly.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research has been undertaken by his Department into the possible connection between livestock stress and vulnerability to infection.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food funds research at the Institute of Animal Health on the influence of social and other stress on immunosuppression in poultry vaccinated against Marek's disease virus, and on the effects of stress in early life on the incidence and pathogenesis of infectious stunting syndrome in poultry.
In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food funds programmes of research into the causes and effects of stress in farm animals and its objective assessment, and into the
causes/pathogenesis and immune responses to infections. Connections between stress and vulnerability to infections are continually kept in mind and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will commission further investigations as considered necessary.
Mr. David Porter : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects his Department to resolve its consideration of the navigation and coast protection interests relating to the repair scheme for Southwold harbour put forward by Waveney district council ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : These proposals raise questions of navigational safety which still have to be resolved. I understand that Waveney district council is seeking expert advice, which it is hoped will help to resolve the difficulties.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Statutory hygiene controls, enforced by local authorities, apply at all stages of meat production to reduce the risk of cross contamination. My Department is continuously seeking ways of further reducing the incidence of cross infection.
Column 534received from EEC inspectors regarding the conditions in British slaughterhouses over the last two years ; and what response has been made to these representations.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The reports made by EC commission inspectors on individual plants are confidential. They are discussed with the inspectors, with the local authority concerned and with the plant management and any corrective action which is necessary is put in hand.