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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
BSE report: The main points
The main points of the BSE inquiry report are as follows:

  • BSE developed into an epidemic as a result of an intensive farming practice - the recycling of animal protein in ruminant feed. This proved a "recipe for disaster".

  • Government ministers played down the links between BSE-infected beef and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

  • They also misled the public about the risks posed by mad cow disease.

  • Up to March 1996, most of those responsible for responding to BSE did so with credit, though there were shortcomings.

  • The government was too preoccupied with preventing a panic reaction to BSE and therefore the way in which the risk was communicated to the public was flawed.

  • Although a ban existed in 1989 to prevent specified bovine offal - brain, spinal cord and other tissue - entering the human food chain, there was a failure to enforce it properly.

  • A failure to ensure proper communication between government departments meant the Department of Health was not kept informed of the increasing weight of evidence proving a link between BSE and vCJD.

  • Ministers and civil servants failed to develop any contingency plans to cope with a situation whre vCJD was found to be caused by BSE-infected beef despite the fact years had passed since the first evidence of a link had been uncovered.

  • The government relied too much on experts from the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (SEAC) to formulate policy and spent too long consulting with experts before implementing advice.

  • A "lack of rigour" was applied when considering how to turn policy into practice, partly because until early 1996 many believed there was no threat to human life.

  • The ministry of agriculture did not favour agriculture producers over consumers.

  • The meat and livestock commission is accused of "absurd exaggerations".

  • The commission's 1995 advertising campaign that aimed to reassure people about the safety of beef created a climate where "hyperbole replaced accuracy".

  • A combination of delays and denials prompted the public to feel deceived and undermined their confidence in public statements.

  • The probable link between BSE and vCJD was identified as early as reasonably possible.

  • The link is now clearly established, though the manner of infection is not clear.


  • CJD

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    26 Oct 00 | Scotland
    20 Oct 00 | Health
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