NEWS

A multi-agency group is being established to monitor potential risks to public health from the foot and mouth disease outbreak.

But the Department of Health has insisted such risks are minimal.

The DoH will chair the group, bringing together organisations such as the Environment Agency, local authorities and the Food Standards Agency as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

'At any stage, should results of monitoring suggest a potential problem, this will trigger a joint response across relevant agencies, ' according to the DoH.

The department has sought to reassure people of the safety of water supplies in areas near burial sites for slaughtered animals. It insists most public water supplies are safe from the threat of bacteria and viruses originating from buried carcasses and that continuous monitoring and treatment of supplies will protect the public.

Monitoring of dioxin levels in land used for for supplies close to pyres in parts of Cumbria, Devon, Scotland and Wales is also continuing. Air pollution from the pyres can exacerbate respiratory problems and the DoH says public health directors have been liaising with GPs in their areas 'to identify any potential problems'.