§ Mrs. Browning
Official records on the number of sheep scab outbreaks are not available following the deregulation of sheep scab controls in April 1992. Unofficial reports indicate it has been found in every county in Britain.
A surveillance exercise at markets carried out in March 1994 by the state veterinary service found 177 batches of sheep in which sheep scab was suspected at 869 market days surveyed; this exercise will be repeated this spring.
Official veterinary presence at sheep markets was significantly increased on 1 September 1994. Since that, date, 2,086 market visits have resulted in 326 cases of suspected sheep scab being detected.
§ Mrs. Browning
The Department has continued to receive a number of representations on both subjects in the past 12 months.
In response to representations on the increasing incidence of sheep scab early last year, a surveillance exercise was carried out by the state veterinary service at markets and sales in March 1994. While the results were not conclusive, they indicated that a minority of farmers were failing to keep their flocks free from scab and that the number of infested sheep had increased. A substantial publicity campaign was therefore carried out last autumn to encourage farmers to treat their sheep for scab. In addition, the official vet presence at markets was significantly increased; animals suspected of scab infestation are being withdrawn from sale and treated and the owner risks prosecution. A further surveillance exercise in markets and sales by the state veterinary service is planned for the spring of 1995 to measure the impact of the stricter market enforcement measures and of the publicity campaign.
Representations have also included concerns about the possible human health effects arising from the use of organophosphorous sheep dips. The safety of these products was reviewed by the independent veterinary product committee 1993. It concluded that there was no scientific justification for banning OP sheep dips, but they must be used correctly, and that includes the wearing of appropriate protective clothing. The Government accepted the VPC's recommendations, one element of which was the introduction of a certificate of competence scheme for those wishing to continue to purchase OP sheep dips, aimed at improving awareness of the safety precautions to be taken when using these products. From 1 April 1995 therefore, sale and supply of OP sheep dips will be restricted to those holding certificates or their representatives.