The Government last night insisted that officials had acted "in good faith" during the BSE crisis, as French prosecutors consider manslaughter charges against Britons involved in handling the outbreak.
The Paris prosecutor's office said that charges could be brought against European officials - including Britons - over deaths from the human version of mad cow disease. The prospect was raised after relatives of those killed in France by variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease filed lawsuits against "persons unknown".
French investigating magistrates are said to have discarded poisoning charges but are looking into charges of involuntary homicide.
They want charges brought against British and European officials for failing to stop UK exports of animal feed in the early 1990s. The Ministry of Agriculture said that the Phillips inquiry into the Government's response BSE cleared individuals of any blame.