HC Deb 27 July 1989 vol 157 cc1157-8
2. Mr. Stern

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that purchasers of animal-based products are able to obtain information on the drugs given to the animals.

Mr. Maclean

Such a step is not practicable. The Government believe that the way to protect the consumer is to ensure that no residues are present in food at levels that are harmful to health.

Mr. Stern

I join my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) in welcoming my hon. Friend the Minister to his new post.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is reason for concern among people in the Bristol area, for example, when they hear that a preparation of which they previously knew nothing, such as BST—bovine somatotropin—is being fed to cows on an experimental basis? It is not that they believe that an active attempt being made to do them harm but that they are not told that such experiments are taking place. How can my hon. Friend reassure my constituents and those of other right hon. and hon. Members?

Mr. Maclean

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words.

There is no question of testing drugs in the manner that my hon. Friend suggests, and then giving the milk products of those cows to the public. Bovine somatotropin is not a drug but a naturally occurring hormone. I suggest that my hon. Friend tells his constituents that, since time began, every cow has had BST naturally occurring in its system. Synthetic BST is no different from the naturally occurring hormone, and it would be inappropriate to label milk products, because such labelling could be misleading. BST is a natural hormone.

Mr. Livsey

I, too, congratulate the agriculture team on its appointment. Will the Minister comment on the ban that has been imposed by the EC as a result of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Britain when the mainland continent of Europe cannot test for or identify the disease?

Mr. Maclean

The only comment that I would make is that that ban applies only to animals born before 18 July 1988. We continually keep the matter under review and we are happy to comply with EEC standards on all aspects of animal health and safety.

Dr. David Clark

Has the Minister had time to study the minutes of his veterinary products committee? If so, will he confirm that the April and May meetings of that committee received an application for a product licence for BST by Elanco which it has not granted on grounds of health doubts for humans and animals?

Mr. Maclean

No, I have not had a chance in the past 24 hours to study that minute among the other documents that I have been reading. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall study it and write to him with a detailed reply.