HC Deb 15 January 1964 vol 687 cc34-6W
Mr. Prior

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the report by his Department on the use and chemical properties of fluoroacetamide has been completed; and what action he now proposes as to its future use in view of the apparent dangers of this chemical.

Sir Richard Glyn

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the danger involved in indiscriminate use of drugs of the fluoroacetamide group such as tritox; and whether he will take powers to ensure that all new pesticides are tested to his satisfaction before being put on the market.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

The chemical fluoroacetamide is not used as a drug but as an insecticide and rodenticide. Our inquiries into the regrettable poisoning of animals at Smarden and Merthyr Tydfil strongly suggest, although it cannot be established with absolute certainty, that the substance involved in both cases was fluoroacetamide. These inquiries do not indicate that the use of this chemical as an insecticide could have contributed to the deaths of the animals. Although it has been known for some time that dogs are highly sensitive to poisoning by organic fluorine compounds, these incidents have provided for the first time evidence of their extreme susceptibility to secondary poisoning by this means, and the principal suppliers of the chemical in this country have voluntarily withdrawn it from sale as an insecticide.

At the instance of my Department, supported by the Advisory Committee on Poisonous Substances Used in Agriculture and Food Storage, the Poisons Board have recommended my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to amend the Poisons Rules so as to place further restrictions on the sale of this chemical. I understand that my right hon. Friend hopes to lay the necessary Statutory Instrument before Parliament shortly. The practical effect of this amendment will be that fluoroacetamide will no longer be available for use as an insecticide, and will only be obtainable as a rodenticide on production of a certificate from a Medical Officer of Health or an authorised officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. The certificate would specify the quantity to be supplied and the place (sewers, ships holds, etc.) where it was to be used.

We are also issuing a fresh circular to local authorities on the use of fluoroacetamide for the destruction of rats in sewers, for which it is a very valuable agent, re-emphasising that the greatest care must be exercised in its custody and use. I am advised that, provided the recommended precautions are observed, there should be no risk to other animals or to human beings.

Under the voluntary Notification of Pesticides Scheme, no new chemical is put on the market for use in agriculture or food storage until the Advisory Committee on Poisonous Substances and the Government Departments concerned are satisfied that adequate tests and trials have been made enabling the Committee to issue recommendations for safe use. Occasionally, the widespread use of a chemical reveals additional hazards and the Scheme provides for a review of safe use recommendations in the event of new scientific evidence coming to light. While my right hon. Friend does not consider that statutory restrictions would necessarily provide more effective control, he will continue to keep a close watch on the position.

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