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Swiss order new measures to counter foot-and-mouth disease

The Swiss authorities want to avoid scenes like those seen in Britain

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland announced on Wednesday it was banning meat imports from countries affected by foot-and-mouth disease, in an attempt to prevent it from entering the country. It was one of a series of measures introduced by the authorities.

Meat imports from countries hit by foot-and-mouth - Britain, France, Ireland and the Netherlands - are banned. British meat-based products, as well as lamb and goat meat from the EU, have also been barred.

Travellers from Britain will no longer be allowed to bring meat or meat-based products into Switzerland.

Among the other measures: milk products will come under veterinary surveillance for the first time; imports of hay, straw or manure will have to be authorised by the federal veterinary office, and only from regions free of foot-and-mouth disease; and health checks at the Swiss border are also being stepped up.

Existing regulations on the transport of animals are being tightened. Imports of live hoofed animals from the EU and their transportation through Switzerland were banned in March.

Ulrich Kihm, director of the Federal Veterinary Office, is convinced that Switzerland has done enough to ensure foot-and-mouth is kept out of the country. "We came to the conclusion that we have to introduce new measures in order to prevent an introduction of the virus in Switzerland," Kihm told swissinfo, "and I am confident it is possible to prevent the introduction of live animals and meat into the country."

Empty animal transport vehicles will now only be allowed to cross the border under certain conditions. Drivers will have to prove with an official certificate that their trucks were cleaned and disinfected after their most recent use.

Officials told a news conference in Bern that tightening security was the only way to prevent the disease from entering Switzerland. They warned, however,
that the epidemic may continue its progress, because of the difficulty in monitoring animal transport throughout the EU.

"One of my problems with the EU," Kihm told swissinfo, "is that free trade is OK as long as you can guarantee the health of the animals."

"From this point of view, the EU has to reconsider how they handle health problems with regard to free trade."

swissinfo with agencies


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