Date Published: 17 March 2009

Agency helps farmers prevent lead poisoning

Health Food - illustrating an item from the UK Food Standards Agency.

The Food Standards Agency has produced a leaflet for farmers, giving advice to help them protect their livestock, business and the UK’s food from lead poisoning. Cases of lead poisoning on farms increase in the spring when animals are turned out into the fields.

* The problem
* How can a farmer avoid lead contamination on their farm?
* Order a printed copy of the leaflet

The leaflet can be found at the links below – there are versions for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as a Welsh language version.

The problem

More than half of incidents on farms reported to the Agency are caused by lead exposure and poisoning each year. These incidents put animal health and food safety at risk.

Lead poisoning can kill or cause sickness in cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and some other animals. Cattle can die suddenly, become infertile or show signs of nervous disease and blindness.

Exposure to lead in these animals can also raise lead levels in meat, offal and milk above the legal and safe limits, making it illegal for these products to go into the food chain.

Last year, 2,500 animals in the UK were withheld from the food chain because of the risk of lead poisoning.

How can a farmer avoid lead contamination on their farm?

As a primary producer, farmers can play a crucial role in protecting the human food chain. They can:

* check fields and barns regularly for vehicle batteries, burnt-out cars and old machinery
* watch out for fly-tipping
* check for flaky lead paint and putty
* make sure animals can’t access bonfire ash, piping and flashing
* keep animals' soil consumption as low as possible

Other sources of lead include electric fencing batteries, lead shot and lead mining soil heaps.


Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK.

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