Defra blamed for foot and mouth outbreak.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/03/11/eadefra211.xml
A catalogue of bureaucratic failures and Government confusion led to a foot and mouth outbreak that could have devastated the British farming industry, an official inquiry has found.
The investigation into leaks from the Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright in Surrey found that "muddled and ineffective" management from Whitehall departments left the vital facility at risk of potentially disastrous accidents.
Animals on eight farms in the Surrey area were infected with foot-and- mouth in August and September last year, probably due to foot and mouth virus samples being used at Pirbright leaking from faulty pipework.
Iain Anderson, who reviewed the incident for the Government, today passed a damning verdict on the management of the site.
"This virus should never have got out. Everything was wrong around Pirbright, the regulatory system was poor, the risk management was poor," he said. Dr Anderson said the complex nature of Pirbright site and the way ministers had overseen it had contributed to the risks arising from its work.
"This virus should never have got out. Everything was wrong around Pirbright, the regulatory system was poor, the risk management was poor," he said.
The Pirbright site which is shared by the Institute of Animal Health, a government-funded facility and Merial, a private company.
Dr Anderson set out the patchwork of Government departments and agencies that oversaw the site.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs acted as its regulator. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and formerly the DTI, are responsible for the site and its funding. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) also provides funds. The Governing Body and the management at the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) ran the site day-to-day.
"The IAH is critical to the nation's capacity to prepare for, and respond to, the evolving animal disease and zoonotic risk. However, the facilities of IAH fall well short of internationally recognised standards. And the governance and funding arrangements are muddled and ineffective," Dr Anderson said.
Dr Anderson also considered a string of earlier reviews of Pirbright's management, and concluded that no single authority had ever taken responsibility for the site.
"These earlier reviews identified contributory factors extending from poor containment conditions that fell well short of internationally acknowledged standards, to risky working practices and poor communications between landlord and tenant," he found.
"Defra's regulatory regime was insufficiently robust given the level of risks on the site, and that the governance mechanisms put in place. . . were not effective to mitigate the risks themselves. No-one took a 'whole picture' approach to join the dots on the multitude of risks which were being taken at the Pirbright site."
Dr Anderson said the communications between Defra, IAH and Merial had been poor, and a secondary leak in November - which was contained - showed they were still inadequate.
And while his remit was to look at foot and mouth, which is only kept at Pirbright in the UK, he said he would not be surprised if problems existed at other high containment facilities.