The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has issued a warning that if a bird flu pandemic were to hit Britain, there would be a severe shortage of food.
The Committe has called on ministers to step-up efforts to collaborate on an international level and has asked the Government to prepare alternative plans to combat an epidemic should the need arise. As staff continue to take leave and supermarket deliveries are not made on time, the Committee felt that food shortages would hit the country badly. 'A flu pandemic looks likelier now than at any time since the 1960s,' said Lord Broers, chairman of the Committee. 'But it's not inevitable and with co-ordinated international action it can still be prevented. The government must put its weight behind U.N. agencies working in south East Asia.' He added that as far as planning was concerned, Britain had got a head start over other countries, 'But the Government could still do better, both by issuing fuller guidance to frontline health workers and by protecting other essential services, such as food distribution networks.'
The Committee has recommended the setting up of a Cabinet level post to prepare for any eventuality. 'It is going to affect everybody in all walks of life. Distribution networks in this country - as we saw through the petrol crisis - are very finely balanced and any interruption can affect it quite dramatically,' said Lord Mitchell, a Labour peer. He added that owners should discourage absenteeism so that food gets delivered on time.