Tests confirm outbreak of potato disease

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Farming officials were trying to confine an outbreak of potato ring rot yesterday after tests confirmed that the disease had been found at a packing firm.

Farming officials were trying to confine an outbreak of potato ring rot yesterday after tests confirmed that the disease had been found at a packing firm.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said ring rot had been found in Sante potatoes that originated from a grower in Herefordshire. They were being packed at a firm in Cambridgeshire when suspect symptoms were identified. The alert is only the second time ring rot has been found in the UK.

Another test, as required under European legislation, will be conducted, but there is no doubt about the results of testing already done.

A Defra spokesman said: "There has been good co-operation with both the grower concerned and the packing company, and holding action has been taken to prevent the use or movement of material or equipment which may present a risk. A tracing and testing programme has been initiated, which will include an investigation into the origin of the potatoes supplied to the grower in Herefordshire."

Ring rot is found in parts of north America and the former Soviet Union and is also established in northern and eastern Europe. The bacteria can survive and remain infectious for several years on potato bags, barn walls, machinery and other equipment which has been contaminated, making eradication difficult.

The disease was discovered in the mid-Wales area last October but was contained.

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