FARMERS have been urged to watch out for possible sources of lead poisoning following an increase in on-farm incidents

Food Standards Scotland this week highlighted the risks of lead sources on farms, after the last three months saw more lead-related reports to its Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) than the whole of the last recording year.

Head of the SFCIU at Food Standards Scotland, Ron McNaughton, said: “We have now received four incident reports since April 2020 caused by lead exposure and poisoning, which is one more than the whole period between April 2019 and March 2020.

“This highly toxic metal not only affects animals in many ways, for example causing nervous disease, blindness, infertility and even death, but contamination beyond legal limits in meat, offal and milk puts consumers at risk and is illegal to sell," stressed Mr McNaughton.

“Lead poisoning can also be costly, through animal deaths, disposing of carcasses, veterinary fees, increased birth defects, loss of market value and decreased production, and delays in sending animals to market.

“To minimise the risk of lead contamination, check fields and barns regularly for sources of lead such as old batteries and machinery, and also watch out for fly tipping and old paint. Lead poisoning mainly affects cattle and sheep – pay attention to young cattle in particular, who are most at risk due to their curious nature."

FSS advises that farmers who suspect lead exposure should remove the source immediately, stop livestock access and seek veterinary advice.

“On-farm incidents can put consumers at risk if the affected animals are not restricted from the food chain – by working together we will continue to harness a safe food environment for Scotland,” said Mr McNaughton.