Wait and see on FMD fear

Meat insiders are playing down fears of a suspected foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak following conflicting reports in the media.

The BBC has claimed government vets are investigating a suspected FMD outbreak at the Cheale Meats abattoir, near Brentwood, Essex where the 2001 outbreak was first discovered.

However, other reports suggested Defra suspected the disease, reported to have been picked up on a farm in Essex, might actually be swine vesicular disease.

"The message to the industry is don't panic," said a meat industry source. "We're suspecting that it will simply turn out to be a misdiagnosis of PMWS."

In the meantime, the abattoir is reported to be closed, and farmers are being told of a ban on livestock movements within a five mile radius.

The results of the tests could be known later in the day. The BBC's Farming Today said samples from the pig, which had a blistered nose, had been sent to the Institute of Animal Health laboratories in Surrey.

A Defra spokesman said: "A suspect case of vesicular disease in pigs is under investigation in Essex.

"Samples have been submitted for diagnosis and an 8km movement standstill on ruminants is being imposed. The premises of origin is also restricted."