A foot-and-mouth disease scare is over after scientists gave the all-clear to samples taken from pigs.

Officials had examined specimens taken from an abattoir in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Foot lesions were spotted in pigs in the slaughterhouse.

Movement restrictions were imposed at the abattoir and their site of origin. Chief veterinary officer Bert Houston said: “As part of routine surveillance at an abattoir in County Antrim, foot lesions were detected in a number of pigs presented for slaughter.

Now the restrictions are being lifted at the abattoir and at the County Down farm the animals came from.

Mr Houston said the results were negative for foot-and-mouth disease as well as swine vesicular disease. He said: “We picked up this suspect case as part of routine surveillance.

“We expect to have cases like this from time to time and this shows our alert systems are operating effectively.”

The symptoms of swine vesicular disease are difficult to distinguish from foot-and-mouth disease.

The last F&M disease outbreak in the UK in 2001 led to the virtual closure of the countryside and its footpaths and bridleways and was estimated to have cost the economy £8 billion.