24 September 1998
BSE safety ignored in 1995

SERIOUS breaches of regulations on mad cow disease were occurring as recently as 1995, according to papers made available to the BSE Inquiry.

The papers show top level concern about what one agricultural ministry vet described as “widespread and flagrant” breaches. They also show that Keith Meldrum, the chief veterinary officer, tried to tone down fears about health risks.

A memo from Richard Packer, permanent secretary at the agriculture ministry, told the then minister Douglas Hogg that the “unsatisfactory treatment of specified bovine offal (SBO) in slaughterhouses reflected an unfortunate state of affairs.”

The memo added that it was “vital” that the health department agreed there “is no risk to human health”.

In another letter to the health department, after several inspections of abattoirs had taken place, one official wrote: “We can no longer be robust as we were about no infective material entering the human food chain.”

But Dr Meldrum wrote that the official “paints a more alarmist picture than is justified”.