4 December 1998

BSE:Consumer blamed

FORMER health secretary Stephen Dorrell has told the BSE Inquiry that he blamed consumers for any misunderstandings over the safety of British beef.

Health secretary from 1995-1997, Mr Dorrell was the man who made the infamous announcement on March 20 1996, that new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease – the human equivalent of BSE – might be contracted from BSE-infected meat.

He defended that statement describing the disease as "the worst form of death" and by saying that it was a "very unpleasant risk" that the previous government was guarding against.

"What we are talking about is a terrible disease, an untreatable disease. It is very hard to imagine a worse form of death than CJD," he said.

During his evidence at the inquiry he said the public had misunderstood the governments information on BSE: "They [consumers] thought that the words beef is safe, meant the same as BSE is not transmissible to humans."

He also blamed slaughterhouses for undermining public confidence in beef with lackadaisical practices. He said that abattoirs had ignored instructions given to them by ministers.

But when Mr Dorrell was asked whether the government should have given more explicit instructions to abattoirs to ensure beef was not contaminated, he insisted that the government had taken sufficient steps.