02 April 1998
MAFF tests for BSE infectivity ‘inadequate’

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) ordered experiments in 1990 to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infectivity in cattle tissues which were bound to fail because there was no way to measure their sensitivity, Dr Stephen Dealler told the inquiry into the disease.

Dealler, who now works as a microbiologist at Burnley General Hospital, said that in 1990 he was told by the scientists that the process of injecting ground-up tissues from cattle into mouse brains to see whether they developed BSE, was inadequate. He said the scientists Hugh Fraser and Moira Bruce expressed their concerns to him over the risk posed by such tissues to people eating food derived from cattle.

He claimed his experiences at the University of Leeds, where he worked in the 1980s, showed him it was virtually impossible to persuade MAFF to publicly admit that it was misinformed about the risks posed by food.

Dealler said he had spent £23,000 of his own money on experiments because he thought chemicals in various English plants may have helped transform proteins thought to be a factor in BSE. He said chemicals in the same family might also inhibit the spread of the disease.

Scientists are now testing potatoes and the leaves of the daisy, toadflax, bindweed and other English plants to see whether they played a part in the epidemic because cows ate them. Government-funded institutes are also hoping to find chemicals in the plants that offer clues for a cure for the disease and its cause.

Meanwhile an all-party group of MPs said the inquiry should examine the theory that organophosphates caused both BSE and the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, its human equivalent.

  • The Independent 02/04/98 page 2
  • The Guardian 02/04/98 page 10