Foot and Mouth Disease

Q. What is Foot and Mouth Disease? 

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a viral disease that effects cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and other cloven hooved animals (animals whose hooves are in two parts).

In these animals, it is highly contagious and causes fever, followed by the development of blisters, mainly in the mouth and on the feet.

Q. How is FMD spread from animal to animal? 

Animals pick up the virus either by direct contact with an infected animal or by contact with foodstuffs or other contaminated material. Airborne spread of the disease can also take place and under favourable climatic conditions.

Q. What are the implications for human health? 

FMD is a disease of animals.

The only group of people for whom there are any potential health implications are people who work in close contact with clinically infected animals. In that group, there have been rare instances of mild respiratory symptoms that are self-limiting, followed by full recovery.

Q. Are consumers at risk of contracting FMD from food? 

No, there are no safety implications for the human food chain from an outbreak of FMD.

Q. Why are certain food products from Great Britain banned for export? 

The current restrictions that are in place in Great Britain are animal health measures to protect the animal population. There is no FMD risk to humans from eating food from Great Britain .

As FMD is a highly contagious disease of animals, certain controls are necessary to protect our animal population. This includes a ban on the export of any meat or milk based food from Great Britain because it may potentially expose animal populations to the virus.

Q. What foods are banned? 

Interim measures were adopted by the EU Commission, on Monday 6 August 2007, in Commission Decision 2007/552/EC following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey, England. Permanent measures have now been adopted in Commission Decision 2007/554/EC as amended by Commission Decision 2007/588/EC. Following the detection of the new outbreak the publication of Decision 2007/608/EC in the Official Journal on 14 September 2007 extends the applicability of Decision 2007/554/EC until 15 October 2007. The following is the position with regard to the importation of live animals, meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, as well as other animal products of the above species from the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland).

Ban on imports 

A complete ban has been imposed on the export from Great Britain of:

  • cattle, sheep, pigs and goats;
  • meat (including fresh meat, minced meat, mechanically separated meat and meat preparations) and meat products from such animals;
  • milk and dairy products; 

However, subject to specific criteria being implemented by Great Britain, certain meat products, dairy products, as well as other animal products, may be exported accompanied by certification and, in some instances, an endorsed commercial document.

For further details on restrictions on imports please follow link:

 Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine  

Useful links for information:


Last reviewed: 3/9/2013

Latest Surveys/Press Releases/Reports 

Online Information Centre

HACCP Legislation