Defra failing on TB

Defra has been successful in tackling outbreaks of avian influenza and foot-and-mouth, but is failing on established diseases such as bovine turberculosis, a report has found.

In a report published today, the National Audit Office (NAO) praised Defra and Animal Health for successfully containing outbreaks of AI and FMD in 2007 and said that the estimated £33m expenditure in dealing with the disease outbreaks represented good value for money.

However, it criticised the government agency's management of some of the more serious endemic diseases, such as TB, which accounts for 39% of Animal Health's total expenditure.

"Herd restrictions are applied immediately when disease is identified, but compliance with the requirements for routine testing to detect disease is not rigorously enforced," said the NAO.

"There are no national standards on farm biosecurity to minimise the risk of diseases spreading and Defra, Animal Health and other inspection bodies, such as local authorities, do not systematically collect and share information about biosecurity risks."

The report concluded that more effective planning and collaborative working would enable better control of endemic disease.

Tim Burr, head of the NAO, said: "Defra eradicated outbreaks of Avian Influenza and foot-and-mouth disease in 2007 before they could spread further, but TB continues to pose a significant risk to the livelihoods of farmers. Defra could tackle disease more effectively by working with farmers and their vets to improve farm biosecurity."