Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown exonerated super-markets from blame over the foot and mouth epidemic at a parliamentary Select Commit-tee meeting. He underlined the statement made during an exclusive interview with The Grocer last week that the outbreak is "nothing to do with the supply chain". He said: "This really isn't about abattoirs, or about supermarkets, it's about controlling the virus." But Brown agreed with the committee's recommendation that he begins a public education campaign to clear up misconceptions about the nature and spread of the disease. As the number of reported cases spreads across Europe ­ including a potentially devastating eruption of the disease in Ireland ­ the committee heard that plans were being put in place for the resumption of trade when infectivity is under control. Brown said: "We will have to re-establish the export market, but tailor it to market circumstances. That may mean we regionalise the UK and lift blanket movement restrictions and the export ban in some areas. "Northern Ireland, which has only had one confirmed case is a prime example. It is still too early to set a timescale, but we are in for a long haul in some sectors." But he said meat prices were set for a downturn as export restrictions led to a glut in the UK. Chief vet Jim Scudamore told the committee the foot and mouth disease strain had been particularly quick to get a hold because it did not cause obvious symptoms in 95% of sheep, and had never been identified in the UK. {{NEWS }}