The government research institute suspected of being a possible source of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in England says it does not believe itself to be at fault. The nearby private Merial laboratory is also being investigated. Britain’s Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds said both have used the virus in research: “This is a strain of virus that is not currently circulating in animals, but it is one that is contained in the Pirbright facility and it’s associated with vaccine production at Merial (pharmaceutical company Merial Animal Health) and is also held at the Institute for Animal Health Pirbright Laboratory.” Two herds of cattle have been destroyed since the discovery of the disease on a farm in Surrey, close to the two laboritories. A 10 kilometre protection zone has been set up around the area and exports of livestock and meat and dairy products have been banned in a bid to contain the outbreak. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will chair another meeting of a special panel of experts and ministers today. The government was criticised for its slow response to a foot and mouth epidemic which devastated British farming in 2001.