Beyond the Downing Street spin and party political posturing that is colouring coverage of the real issues of foot and mouth, there are serious groups tackling the wider consequences the dreadful disease is threatening to inflict on UK plc. So it was depressing this week to be treated to the pathetic spectacle of Tony Blair apparently at odds with his environment minister over the terms of reference of the ultimate official inquiry. Add the electioneering of Messrs Hague, Yeo and the rest of the Tory bandwagon-jumpers and you had a juicy scenario for the world's hungry media to lap up. For it's the multicoloured coverage of the crisis on tv and in newspapers from Bangkok to Rio that is beginning to have damaging effects on the food chain and its £9bn exporting business in particular. Typical is a quote from the New York Times: "With the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the conceit that England is what Blake called a green and pleasant land' has collided with tabloid headlines informing Britons that their disease-ridden animals have made them the lepers of Europe." Small wonder a New York deli owner asked me recently if "all British food is poisonous?" A misguided international crisis of confidence about the safety of our food, whether the products are directly related to the agri-sector or not, is causing exporting executives to look anxiously at their sales graphs. So Food from Britain should be congratulated on its speedy initiative to rebuild the UK image overseas. Aid for the farming and tourism industries, plus a serious inquiry into the causes of the epidemic, must be high on the government's agenda. But it is also important that the overseas image of our food and drink exporting sector ­ and that involves farmers as well as manufacturers ­ is not left tarnished by pictures of the animal pyres. Food from Britain has the expertise to lead a much needed initiative. But government must provide assistance with initiatives and hard cash ­ otherwise the legacy of FMD will taint overseas markets for a very long time. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}