The Department of Health has established a monitoring programme to protect the public from the potential health threats posed by the mass burial pits created during the foot and mouth crisis.

In a bid to contain the foot and mouth virus, the government has now slaughtered around three million animals, but disposal of the carcasses has proved problematic. Many have been rendered or burned, raising fears that carcinogenic dioxins will pollute the air. Others were placed in huge burial pits meanwhile, and experts pointed out that these held the possibility of contaminating water supplies.

A focus is also to be provided by the programme on the potential spread of BSE. Officials have estimated that despite guidelines to the contrary, 55 UK burial locations actually contain around 10,000 cattle over 5 years old, the age at which the risk of mad cow disease increases.

If BSE-infected prion proteins in the cattle reached water supplies, experts are concerned that the public could be at risk from contracting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human brain-wasting equivalent to BSE.

Close monitoring of milk will also be a feature of the programme, to ensure that pollutants do not enter the food chain.

All relevant government departments and agencies will be involved in the programme, publishing their own findings. A monthly overview of all the results will be published from June.

As the summer temperatures rise however, deputy chief medical officer, Dr Pat Troop, told a news conference in London: “Further culling will need to take place, and further carcasses will need to be disposed of quickly. This will become increasingly important in warm weather conditions.”

To read more:
Public health fears raised over revelation that burning pyres release carcinogenic dioxins, click here.

Foot and mouth burial craters increase risk of BSE, click here.

To register as a full member of, click here.