HC Deb 24 January 1991 vol 184 cc443-4
5. Mr. Ashton

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his policy for reducing the level of food poisoning caused by salmonella.

Mr. Maclean

The Government have a whole range of measures for tackling the problem of salmonella food poisoning, whatever its source or wherever in the food chain it may appear.

Mr. Ashton

If that is so, why did the number of salmonella cases rise from 8,000 last year to 12,000? Surely, the policy is not working. Is it not a fact that many of the cases are due to imported eggs from the continent, which the Minister could—but did not—have tested under article 36 of the EC laws? Why should an egg producer like Mr. Chapman of Hayton near Retford in my constituency have his flock destroyed and part of his business closed down without any right of appeal, when imported eggs from the continent are allowed to come in without any such checks? Will the Minister take notice of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) and the campaign that he has been waging to stop the spread of salmonella from increasing every year?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman and the House could do with a few facts. The latest update on the salmonella food poisoning in this country will show slight increase in salmonella food poisoning in humans—a large decrease in the salmonella typhimurium and an increase in salmonella enteritidis. The latest figures for 1990 will also show that in egg-laying flocks there has been a huge and dramatic decrease in salmonella enteritidis. Those figures point to the success of the control measures that we have taken.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that, when we have a common agricultural policy that is intended to ensure a level playing field in the market place, we should stress that the excellent measures that the Government have introduced to preserve people's health should extend throughout the European Community? Does he further agree that we should not tolerate the ridiculous situation that those producing eggs in Poland, Holland or wherever, do not have to reach the same high standards as British egg producers?

Mr. Maclean

We agree that the measures that we have taken here on salmonella should extend to other countries in the EC, and we are pressing most strongly that they do so, as we do with animal welfare. Other countries should see the wisdom of our ways. My hon. Friend has made a good marketing statement on behalf of British-produced eggs, as he has pointed out our superior system for detecting salmonella. Consumers can be reassured about home-produced eggs.

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