Foot-and-mouth reports delivered

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Indy Politics

The results of two inquiries into what caused the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Surrey have been handed to the Government.

Last night, ministers were remaining silent about the Health and Safety Executive investigation and a wider, independent review of biosecurity by Professor Brian Spratt of Imperial College London.

The two studies, to be published next week, should shed light on speculation that the outbreak stemmed from a laboratory at Pirbright which is shared by the Government-funded Institute for Animal Health (IAH), an international diagnostic laboratory, and the American-owned pharmaceutical company Merial Animal Health.

Both labs have defended their procedures but, in an interim report last month, the HSE said there was a "strong possibility" that the Pirbright centre was the source of the foot-and-mouth scare. It said there was a "real possibility" the disease was spread by human movement but the chances it was caused by flooding or aerial transmission were negligible.

Experts were sent into the Pirbright complex after it emerged that the strain of foot and mouth found in infected cattle on two farms near Guildford was the same as one used at the labs. The interim report confirmed that the strain found at the first farm was being worked on at both Merial and the IAH between 14 July and 25 July. But, to the frustration of ministers, it did not narrow down the likely source any further.

Yesterday, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it had received the two reports. "Both will be carefully considered," a spokesman said.