A new international model for helping meat producers deal with outbreaks of e-coli has been proposed by a Canadian agricultural think-tank, as part of a national debate after seven people died from exposure to the bacteria.

Ontario#;s George Morris Centre has urged Ontario authorities to establish an insurance programme for livestock farms, that would encourage farmers to use environmentally sound practices, with premiums fluctuating according to how a farmer's manure handling system operates. Farmers with environmentally sound practices would pay less than those with practices that are potentially harmful to the environment and which might boost the risk of an e-coli outbreak.

Allan Mussell, researcher with George Morris, told just-food.com that the insurance plan would reassure the public on the safety of livestock farming, which is in doubt after the deaths Ontario caused by contaminated drinking water.

By Monica Dobie