22 October 1998
MAFF kept BSE information to itself

MINISTRY of Agriculture officials denied the Cabinet Office access information about BSE, the official inquiry into the disease was told yesterday.

The Cabinet Office was alerted to the dangers of mad cow disease only when the first person died in 1995 from a new form of brain disease linked to BSE, said Sir William Stewart, the Governments former chief scientific officer.

Sir William, who worked in the Cabinet Office from 1992 to 1995, said MAFF officials rejected his advice that they should use independent experts to deal with the BSE problem.

“It did not keep me up to date with what was happening,” he said.

Mr Stewart said he believed Prof Roy Anderson of Oxford University would have been useful in this respect.

Prof Anderson has already told the inquiry that 250,000 cattle had been infected needlessly with BSE because a “culture of secrecy” in the ministry had prevented him from having access to important data.

BSE was discovered in 1985. Some 29 people have died from a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which has been linked to BSE. The link was made public in March 1996.