Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
BSE evidence prompts calls for food watchdog
Evidence heard by the BSE inquiry has led to fresh calls for a food agency
The government has come under renewed pressure not to shelve plans for a new food watchdog in the wake of evidence heard by the BSE inquiry.
Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Charles Kennedy has called for the government to deliver its plans in the next parliamentary session following evidence from former Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman to the BSE inquiry.
Mr Kennedy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Sir Kenneth's evidence "even standing alone, makes very strongly the case for ensuring that the Food Standards Agency legislation does appear in this year's Queen's Speech".
He said there were currently "turf wars going on within Whitehall which at the end of the day are unlikely to be serving either the agricultural interests or the wider consumer interests".
Sir Kenneth told the inquiry official advice during the early 1990s that British beef was "safe" to eat had not meant it posed no possible risk to human health.
He justified his advice to the BSE inquiry by saying "safe" did not necessarily mean "zero risk".
Scientific evidence available at the time did not suggest a significant danger from eating beef, he added.
Consumers' Association director Sheila McKechnie said the Ministry of Agriculture, together with farming, was putting health second after their own interests
The Chief Medical Officer's role needed looking at in the "widest constitutional sense because I don't think we can have this kind of secrecy, people talking to other departments, knowing there is a problem and actually not doing anything about it", she said.
She said: "If we had a decent Freedom of Information Act and accessible government, we wouldn't be having this kind of problem."
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