Most milk and consumers not affected
The Food Standards Agency previously issued advice about the food safety implications of dioxins produced by pyres. Friday (25 May) the Agency issued new information for certain groups of consumers and to dairy farmers (1) to provide them with the latest advice on milk from animals grazing near to pyres.
The information applies to the very small number of people who only consume whole milk and whole milk products from animals that have been grazing within 2 km (1.2 miles) of pyres. The vast majority of milk and milk products sold to consumers are bulked (mixed) and are not affected.
The Food Standards Agency has been continually reviewing the issue of dioxins getting into milk from pyres. The Agency estimates that it is highly unlikely that there will be any increased health risk to the vast majority of people.
But there may be a slightly higher, although very small, additional risk for people who only consume whole nmilk and whole milk products only from animals within 2 km of pyres. This advice is precautionary until results of tests on milk come through. The results will not begin to become available until the end of May and it will take until the end of June to form a complete picture of the situation.
Continuing to consume affected milk and milk products over the short period until test results are available would present, at most, a very small additional risk to health.
In the meantime, consumers of these products who are concerned may wish to vary their diet to include milk and milk products from other sources. Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, or products made from these, are not affected.
Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: ” This is highly precautionary advice for a very small number of consumers. It is for people who only consume whole milk and milk products that have come exclusively from animals near pyres.
” It is unlikely there will be any health concerns but we need to double-check with the results from tests on milk. It is right that consumers who may be affected have the information to make their own decisions, where there is uncertainty. We will make public the results of the tests and issue any further information that may be required.”
Sampling of milk, soil, eggs and grass started at the beginning of May when cattle were being put out to pasture from their winter quarters. Testing was timed to ensure that the highest levels of dioxins would be measured. Dioxins take time to build up on grass and can be washed away. It also takes time for dioxins to build up in milk. So far, samples have been collected at Holsworthy – Devon, Sennybridge – South Wales, Anglesey – North Wales, Dumfries and Galloway – Scotland, and Cumbria. Locations have been selected to represent a range of pyre types and conditions and give valuable information for the future.
An advice line has been set up for dairy farmers on 0800 915 1601 (7 days a week 9am – 6pm)
Contacts for further information:
National Media Neil Martinson 0207 276 8880 Pager 07644 078233
Regional Media Richard Billinge 0207 276 8821 Pager 07669 177450
Local Media Anthony Wright 0207 276 8813 Pager 07669 177464
(1) The advice has also been sent to sheep and goat farmers who produce milk. The postal dispute may delay the distribution of this information. Full copies are available from www.foodstandards.gov.uk.
Consumer Questions and Answers
|Q:||What milk does this apply to?|
|A:||It only applies to whole (full fat) milk that comes from animals grazing within 2kms of pyres and which has not been mixed with other milk. It does not apply to milk that is generally consumed by most of the population as this milk is mixed from a variety of sources. As dioxins only accumulate in fat, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk are not affected.|
|Q:||Who does this information apply to?|
|A:||It applies to people who only drink or eat full fat milk products from animals grazing within 2kms of pyres|
|Q:||Should I avoid milk?|
|A:||No. Milk is an important part of a balanced diet. If you only consume whole milk and whole milk products that come exclusively from animals grazing within 2kms of pyres, then you may wish to vary your diet with milk and milk products from other sources. Or, you may wish to drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.|
|Q:||How can I tell if my milk is affected?|
|A:||You should ask your supplier, shop or farm from which you buy it.|
|Q:||Should I avoid hard cheeses?|
|A:||No. It is unlikely that there will be a significant amount of cheese from these sources on the market before the test results are known.|
|Q:||Should I avoid eggs?|
|A:||No. Dioxin intake in the diet from eggs is very small. In addition, most birds are kept indoors and the majority of free-range birds are fed on bought in feed. The amount of dioxins from pyres in eggs is likely to be extremely small.|
|Q:||Should I avoid ice-creams, creams, yoghurts and soft cheese?|
|A:||No. If you consume these products and they come exclusively from animals grazing within 2kms of pyres, then you may wish to vary your diet with products from other sources.|
|Q:||What harm will these milks and milk products do to me?|
|A:||It is unlikely that there will be any health risk from any milk or milk products. However, consumers who obtain all their whole milk or whole milk products from animals grazing within 2 km of a pyre may wish to make their own choices about continuing to consume these exclusively until the test results come through.|
|Q:||What can dioxins do to people?|
|A:||Research on some laboratory animals shows that long-term exposure to dioxins can cause cancer and might therefore cause cancer in humans. That is why every effort is made to reduce exposure to dioxins.|
|Q:||Why didn’t the FSA take samples earlier?|
|A:||Testing was timed to ensure that the highest levels of dioxins would be measured. Dioxins take time to build up on grass and can be washed away. Also takes time for dioxins to build up in milk.|
Facts on dioxins and pyres
Most of the dioxins from pyres will fall on land within 2km of the pyres. The FSA considers that this is unlikely to increase the health risk because:
- Monitoring around pyres has shown that dioxins in the air, when added to those expected for the rest of the year, are no higher than those found elsewhere in the UK.
- Dioxins are present in a wide range of foods and a small, temporary increase will only have a marginal effect on total dietary exposure. Exposure in the diet to dioxins has fallen by about 75% since 1982.
- Most milk is mixed from a variety of sources before entering the food chain thereby reducing individual exposure to any dioxins that may be present.
- Risks associated with dioxins arise from long term exposure and are unlikely to be influenced by short-term emissions.