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Britain imposes strict controls on germs and toxins over biological terrorism fear

Britain imposes strict controls on germs and toxins over biological terrorism fear

An expanded list of deadly toxins and pathogens held in laboratories and hospitals will be more tightly controlled to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, Britain's Home Office said on Thursday.
Around 100 viruses and bacteria _ including diseases such as rabies, polio and influenza _ will be covered by the tough new regulations, policing and security minister Tony McNulty said.
Commercial laboratories, universities and hospitals will be required to give police details of their precise stocks of the agents and the names of every person with access to them, the Home Office said.
McNulty said 45 viruses and 18 animal pathogens, including African swine fever, goat pox and Rift Valley fever were being added to an updated list of controlled substances. Three types of salmonella bacteria and two types of poisonous fungi were also being added.
"The terror threat is always changing and we must adapt to ensure it is combated effectively," McNulty said. "As terrorists look for new ways to endanger life, we have to take action to be one step ahead."
He said the measures were aimed at stopping "terrorist groups using chemical or biological materials as terrorist weapons."
In 2003, police said they had foiled a plot to spread the deadly toxin ricin in London. Eight men were charged; four were acquitted and the other four were not tried. No traces of ricin were found but scientists said there was evidence of attempts to produce it.
Last November, a senior British diplomat warned that Islamic extremists had tried to acquire chemical and radiological weapons to use in attacks against Britain and other Western targets.
The Foreign Office official, who demanded anonymity to discuss the issue, said intelligence chiefs believed terrorists could create weapons from substances with legitimate scientific or medical uses.
Britain's Home Office, which is advised by the domestic security service MI5, has also assessed a potential risk from the use of legitimately held toxins or medical waste.
"There is a threat posed by the potential terrorist use of certain pathogens and toxins. There are examples of terrorist groups _ including al-Qaida _ attempting to gain access to such material," said a Home Office spokesman, on customary condition of anonymity.
The spokesman said he could not confirm if attempts had been made by terrorist groups in Britain to acquire biological agents.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the outgoing head of MI5, said last year she believed future terror attacks would likely involve chemical or radiological agents.
Some security officials have said they believe attacks with biological weapons would cause mass panic, rather than mass casualties.


Updated : 2021-07-28 12:43 GMT+08:00