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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Kenneth Calman: The cautious doctor
Sir Kenneth Calman: Chief medical officer 1991-1998
Sir Kenneth Calman was, in some senses, the ideal person to have as the government's principal medical adviser for much of the BSE crisis.

A Scottish doctor who had spent much of his career in hospitals and universities, in 1989 he was appointed chief medical officer at the Scottish Office.

Two years later he moved to the identical job at the Department of Health.

In his evidence to the BSE Inquiry he displayed his judicious approach to protecting public health, telling it that a central concern was the meaning of the word "safe".

"In ordinary usage 'safe' does not necessarily mean no risk," Sir Kenneth said, adding that that was certainly not what the word meant to him.

Early in the crisis he concluded that, "while the probability that BSE might cause human disease was low, it could not be ruled out, and for that reason all precautions should be taken".

He also suggested a distinct coolness at one point towards the approach of colleagues at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

It centred on a failure to ensure the proper disposal of suspect cattle parts, like spinal cords, in slaughterhouses.

"My own particular concern," he said, was "that ministers were fully informed about the potential consequences".

Asked if he felt that the ministers would not be fully informed by the version being proposed by Maff, Sir Kenneth answered simply: "Yes."


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