UK Supermarkets mull use of human sewage on food crops

UK Supermarkets mull use of human sewage on food crops

Mail on Sunday

July 29, 2008

Demand for the use of human waste as crop fertiliser is rising because the animal-based variety is so closely linked to the price of oil, a water company said today.

Treated human sewage, known as sludge or biosolids, is being spread on nearly 3,000 Midlands fields alone to grow crops such as corn and maize, said Severn Trent Water.

’Severn Trent Water supplies 600,000 wet tonnes of sludge to farmers every year and we have seen a 25% rise in demand for biosolids since the start of 2008,’ said press officer Sophie Jordan.

’The demand appears to have soared because of the increasing cost of other fertilisers.

’The cost of conventional fertiliser is closely linked to the price of oil, which has shot up over the past year. Farmers who are feeling the pinch might turn to biosolids to reduce costs.’

Supermarket chains are split on the use of the fertiliser for their products – a number say they have banned the controversial practice.

But Severn Trent said the use of treated human waste is safe.

’Recycling sewage sludge is a highly regulated process, with strict quality controls in place,’ said the company spokeswoman.

’The strict regulations in place give confidence that using biosolids in agriculture is safe. The ’Safe Sludge Matrix’ was developed by Water UK and the British Retail Consortium.

’The matrix ensures the highest possible standards of food safety and provides a framework that gives all food industry stakeholders confidence that biosolids can be safely used.’
At least three of the UK’s largest supermarket chains have differing policies on the use of sludge in agriculture.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: ’I can confirm we don’t use any human waste or untreated animals waste on our products.” She was unable to say why.

Sainsbury’s has no such ban on the use of biosolids.

A spokeswoman said: ’We have not got a ban or policy on it. We have hundreds of suppliers and I could not say who does and who doesn’t, but what I can say is that all our suppliers would follow the strict guidelines laid down by Defra.’

A Waitrose spokeswoman said: ’At Waitrose all our suppliers adhere to the Code of Practice for Agricultural use of Sewage Sludge published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), but do not permit our suppliers of fruit, vegetables or salad to use sludge in their production.’

The use of biosolids has sparked controversy over its smell and fears of health risks.

But Water UK – which represents all UK water and wastewater service suppliers at national and European level – says biosolids have been used safely in agriculture in the UK and other parts of the world for more than 40 years.

The organisation said it was ’safe and sustainable’ and recognised as the ’best practical environment option’ in most circumstances by the European Commission and UK Government.

It said biosolids was the most researched of organic materials used on land and that it was subject to a strict European and UK regulatory framework.


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UK folks should know sewage sludge “biosolids” may contain infectious human and animal prions which cause Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs such as Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD). Human sources are the 2 to 25% of people misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease who may actually have sporadic CJD and are shedding prions into public sewers from blood (funeral directors, embalmers) urine and feces. Animal prions enter sewers from abattoirs, butcher shops, renderers, and other facilities dealing with livestock and meat. The US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that sludge pathogen reduction methods do not inactivate the prions which concentrate in the sewage sludge “biosolids” spread on farm fields.

For more information:

Postings of Helane Shields to Composting Council discussion group in 2006 on issue of infectious human and animal
prions in both Class A and Class B sewage sludge biosolids, with particular regard to the fact that EPA pathogen
reduction measures under Part 503 do NOT inactivate prions . . . . .

Helane Shields Email to US EPA and WEF – human and animal prions in Class A sewage sludge biosolids
compost which is promoted for home use as pathogen free

“PRIONS” ARE PATHOGENS — The Prion Diseases

Prions in intestines and feces

Helane Shields, Alton, NH USA sludge researcher since 1996

Comment by Helane Shields

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