BSE costs set to top £3.5bn
By Johann Tasker
THE BSE crisis is set to cost taxpayers more than £3.5 billion by the Millennium, claims a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO).
The Government has already forked out some £2.5bn on BSE-related schemes in the two years since the crisis began, the report estimates. And the schemes will cost a further £1bn over the next two years.
The National Audit Office praised the Governments compulsory slaughter scheme which excluded all cattle over 30 months old from the food chain. About 2.6 million cattle were slaughtered in the first 18 months of the scheme.
“The speed with which the scheme became fully operational in the face of extreme pressure … and the number of animals dealt with were impressive results in the circumstances,” the report says.
Less money is now being spent on compensation for farmers who lost cattle, the report says. Costs are also falling because aid schemes set up to support the beef market have now ended.
But storage of meat and bonemeal from slaughtered carcasses is likely to push the BSE bill higher.
“By September 1997 stocks of meat and bone meal amounted to some 257,000 tonnes, estimated to be rising at some 65,000 tonnes a year. Storage of this material has cost over £7 million.”
The NAO estimates that some meat and bone meal may remain in storage for five years because of problems extending the UKs incineration capacity.
The crisis began in March 1996 when beef exports were banned after the government admitted possible links between BSE in cattle and a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
A previous government-commissioned report published earlier this year claimed the UK economy lost £1 billion during the first year of the crisis.