The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Lead poisoning warning

Farmers urged to take preventati­ve measures

- Philippa Merry

Scotland’s food body is urging farmers to take preventati­ve measures against the exposure of livestock to lead poisoning.

In a bid to prevent costly veterinary fees, stunted animal growth, loss of market value and potential livestock death, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has partnered with Scottish Agricultur­al College Consulting Vet Services (SACCVS), the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) and the Scottish Government to raise awareness of the causes and symptoms affecting farm animals.

Lead poisoning incidents, it said, increase as livestock is turned out to pasture – raising their exposure to lead deposits from sources including old machinery, rubbish, vehicle batteries, bonfire ash, electric fencing or even lead-based paint.

According to the FSS, over the last two years approximat­ely 460 animals in Scotland have been affected by lead poisoning, with 38 dying as a result. Animals that have come into contact with lead can also show high levels of poisoning in their meat, offal and milk.

These can be above the safe limits laid down in food law, making them illegal for use in the food chain.

“Keeping the number of products containing lead down to a minimum can significan­tly reduce the risk of lead poisoning on farms,” warned FSS’s head of Food Crime and Incidents Unit, Ron McNaughton.

“Most farmers will do this as a matter of course, but there are a minority of farms where rubbish such as old car batteries, old machinery and redundant material is allowed to accumulate rather than being disposed of and this can lead to contaminat­ion of the soil.”

Food Standards Scotland said if farmers suspect lead poisoning they should halt access to the affected area and remove the cause, as soon as it has been identified. They should also remove the livestock from the area and seek veterinary advice.

Symptoms of poisoning in cattle can include nervous disease, blindness, infertilit­y and even sudden death.

More than half of the incidents reported to FSS since 2012 have been caused by lead exposure and poisoning – yet tests for lead poisoning in livestock, produce or soil are inexpensiv­e and straightfo­rward to arrange.

NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “Incidents of lead poisoning can have a devastatin­g effect on a farm.

“Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) veterinary services identified eight incidents of lead poisoning on Scottish farms last year, including one case where 12 cows died with a further 74 affected.”

 ??  ?? Lead poisoning can have a devastatin­g effect on a farm.
Lead poisoning can have a devastatin­g effect on a farm.

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