British Public Said Seriously
Misled On Mad Cow Disease Danger
The Chief Medical Officer at the height of the BSE crisis has accused officials from the Ministry of Agriculture of misleading the public over the safety of eating British beef.
In evidence submitted to the BSE inquiry, Sir Kenneth Calman accuses officials of failing to understand the nature of the crisis.
Sir Kenneth, who issued many assurances about the safety of beef, said officials knew as late as 1995 that contaminated offal was being illegally processed in Britain's abattoirs.
He said that if he had known that such activity was taking place he would never have assured the public that British beef was safe to eat.
Douglas Hogg, the agriculture minister during the period Sir Kenneth says safety procedures were being flouted, refused to comment on the evidence.
He said: "I have not seen his [Sir Kenneth's] statement. I am not in a position to comment."
BSE has subsequently been linked to new variant CJD, a human form of the disease, which has claimed increasing numbers of lives.
Safety measures flouted
Measures to prevent contaminated tissue such as brain and spinal column passing through abattoirs and into the human food chain were introduced in 1990.
But Sir Kenneth told the inquiry that the chief veterinary officer Keith Meldrum told him that, as late as 1995, instances had been recorded of contaminated tissue passing into the human food chain.
Sir Kenneth also told the inquiry that just nine days before the then Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell told the House of Commons of a link between BSE and a human form of CJD, the Ministry of Agriculture had produced a leaflet saying British beef was safe to eat.
Sir Kenneth said he had to stop publication immediately.
In his evidence, Sir Kenneth said he found the attitude of those responsible for removing contaminated tissue from the human food chain "astonishing."
Gerry Callaghan, whose 30-year-old brother Maurice died of new variant CJD, condemned the fact that the public was misled.
He said: "At what stage in all of this do we get an admission from individuals in goverment departments or from government departments themselves that they are responsbible for these deaths?"