Campaign launched to protect food chain from lead poisoning

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Farmers have been urged to protect their cattle from the risk of lead poisoning
Farmers have been urged to protect their cattle from the risk of lead poisoning

Related tags Lead poisoning Meat & Seafood

A new campaign to help protect farms from lead poisoning and prevent it from entering the food chain has been launched by Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

Discarded materials around farmland – including car and electric fence batteries, or ash from where lead has been burned – can prove fatal to animals if digested.

What’s more, the poisoning can have a knock-on effect on the food chain, contaminating meat, offal and milk which becomes unsafe and illegal to sell.

Devastating impact

FSS has reinforced its on-farm safety messaging, with the organisation’s Head of Incidents Stuart McAdam highlighting the devastating impact lead poisoning can have for producers and the wider food chain.

“Lead is a highly toxic metal which can cause slow or stunted growth, blindness, infertility, birth defects and death,”​ said McAdam. “Not only are health impacts on stock distressing, but there are financial implications such as veterinary fees, carcass disposal and loss of market value.

“We know farmers are very serious about the health and welfare of the animals in their care, however, because incidents of lead poisoning often peaks in spring when cattle is put out to pasture, we’re re-launching our on-farm incident prevention campaign.

‘Prevention is the best strategy’

“Lead batteries, old paint, bonfire ash and fly-tipping are the primary causes of lead poisonings. Prevention is the best strategy and checking field regularly and removing animals’ access to these sources are the first steps to preventing these incidents.”

Symptoms of lead poisoning can include animals becoming slow and wobbly, teeth grinding, blindness and bloating. Cases of lead poisoning happen ‘almost always’ at spring turnout when young cattle are sent out – inquisitive young animals more likely to discover discarded sources of lead contamination.

Meanwhile, Pieces of metal, undeclared milk and lead contamination all saw food and drink products pulled from store shelves at the start of the year, captured in our round-up of food recalls.

Related topics Food Safety Meat, poultry & seafood

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