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Email from Robert Persey May 2008

Dear Mary.

I attach an email that I have sent to Dr Paul Gale, for your interest. The Gale Risk Assessment (See also Vet Rec ) preceeded the introduction of the UK standard for meat composting.

I will also forward an email from the FT saying it would publish a letter today, but it did not.(Hopefully it will run next week).

I am meeting with Neil Parish on May 31st to give him a selection of photographs showing activities at the farm. I want him to take them to the EU Commissioner. I received a letter trying to assure me about the NFU’s position on meat composting.

I have found another farm in Yorkshire that is taking beef bones from butchers shops, composting and spreading to land. I will forward the letter that I sent to DEFRA and their response saying that this operation is acceptable.

I will hopefully crack this one in the end.

Kind regards



Dear Sir.

I am a farmer and agricultural journalist. I was the SW rep on the NPA and was responsible for the NPA response to your Risk Assessment on a UK standard for composting. I shared the concerns expressed by Keith Meldrum MRCVS, a previous CVO, that your three stages would be open to abuse, especially if farmers get involved. This has been borne out on some farms in Yorkshire where the AHO appears to have low standards. I have been challenging activities that are being permitted at the Farm . I attach a photograph and I have a library of disgraceful photos if you would like to see more. The State Vets are allowing the farmer on this cattle farm to use the same telescopic handler to shovel the waste meat and then to feed the cattle. The vets say this is OK because he cleanses and disinfects each time. This would be laughable if it was not so dangerous. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Neighbours say the material only stays in the shed a couple of days before it is moved out into maturation heaps. Some of the photos look like heaps of feathers rather than compost. There are photos of large bones. DEFRA claims that this is a hybrid plant. It is both EU and UK . The various agencies have reported him for leaving doors open but still he continues. He appears to be a law unto himself. One of the problems with composting is that there are five agencies dealing with each site but not one will accept responsibility. I now address my concerns with the conclusions of your Risk Assessment.

«              Your organisation, the VLA, produces surveillance reports and the report for June 2007 identified that vermin  (crows) had transferred botulism infected material from a muck heap to a group of 60 cattle 200 metres away. The cattle ate the infected material and seven died. Cattle and sheep eat meat if given a chance. Cleansing is often eaten. This proves that stages two and three of your model can and will be circumvented by vectors. You are proposing that large joints of meat should be composted. It is impossible to prevent vectors removing infected material from stages two and three. Material MUST remain in secure facilities until it is established as safe. I am aware of incidents in the Westcountry where the Thirsk incident have been replicated, resulting in outbreaks of botulism.

«              If farmers can cut corners, they will. Farms, livestock or otherwise, should only compost green waste.

«              Avian flu was not on your agenda in 2002. Large amounts of feathers are being composted. What are the risks?

«              Catering waste containing meat is as dangerous as Cat 3 meat waste and should be treated with the same respect. FMD in 2001 was due to unprocessed catering waste on a farm at Heddon on the Wall..

«              Your Risk Assessment favoured large particle size because the EU standard of 12 mm does not permit the necessary access for air. This is a problem and I would like you to investigate the cage / tower type composters which claim to be of the EU standard. Manchester is currently spending £35 million on such a system. I believe that they need large particle size to work. There is no facility to add extra air. When the material is wet the leachate drops straight through and does not achieve the time / temp requirement. I understand that sieving to 12 mm may take place after composting rather than before. If this happens it is wrong and contravenes legislation. If a leg of pork goes through a TEG tower and then is sieved, the half cooked meat will bounce off and drop through the sieve.

«              The only safe standard for material containing meat is the EU standard. I believe that the only SAFE way forward is to compost in enclosed facilities operating at negative air pressure. The extracted air should be scrubbed. This system removes odours, fungal spores such as aspergillus (a serious issue with outside windrows and not adequately covered in your Risk Assessment) , and also prevents vermin having access. Negative air pressure requires air locks on the entrance doorways.

«               Composting requires large particle size and the EU standard is reconciled  by installing a final stage where all the material, after it has been sieved to 12 mm. is passed through a rotating batch system where steam is added to bring the temp up to 70 deg c. In effect this is a final pasteurisation stage and therefore safe. Maturation heaps will not be required. Some companies in the UK already operate such a system. This extra stage could be bolted onto existing composting operations and the UK would then be safe.

«              The UK cannot be responsible for another outbreak of FMD or swine fever.


Composting has got to happen. It is a new industry and there is a responsibility to learn from any early errors so that this country has a safe system for the future. The virus, like the terrorist, only has to get lucky once.

Please could you confirm receipt of this email


Yours faithfully


Robert Persey


























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