24 February 2000
‘No hope of keeping BSE out of food,’

THE Ministry of Agricultures most senior official confessed at a private meeting that it was impossible to guarantee official precautions to keep BSE out of the food chain, it has been claimed.

The Express reports that former MAFF permanent secretary Sir Richard Packer has been directly accused by Scotlands former Chief Medical Officer Dr Robert Kendell of turning a blind eye to the scandal.

The newspaper says this has been exposed in a dramatic clash of evidence at the BSE inquiry.

Dr Kendell is said to have alleged that in 1995 Englands Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman challenged Sir Richard over pieces high-risk spinal cord found on carcasses.

Sir Richard is reported to have said that farming was a fairly anarchic business and slaughterhouses were under great economic pressure, and some knew they were going out of business.

Sir Richard is said to have stated that it was almost inevitable that regulations would not be fully observed at the time.

Questioned on why he had not made sure regulations were enforced earlier, Sir Richard is reported to have replied that the legal obligation lay with abattoirs, not MAFF.

Sir Richards evidence to the inquiry casts doubt on Dr Kendalls memory, suggesting he may have imagined the event.

But The Express says he does nor deny the words attributed to him.

Sir Richard took premature retirement from MAFF last week

In the same newspaper, political editor Anthony Bevins describes MAFF as “a disgrace to public service” and calls for its abolition

He accuses MAFF of desperately trying to protect farmers and the meat industry at the expense of consumer safety during the BSE crisis

The inquiry is expected to deliver its report to ministers in September.