30 April 1998
Thatcher administration ‘could have stopped BSE’ in feed

THE Thatcher administrations passion for deregulation caused concern among Government scientists at the time that lax meat-rendering controls would lead to new animal diseases, the BSE inquiry was told yesterday.

Evidence presented showed that adequate regulations to stop the disease agent from slipping into animal feed could have been put in place in 1975-76, but were thwarted by lobbying from rendering firms.

Scientists believe that lack of proper “cooking” of animal remains by rendering companies let the BSE disease agent from infected cows slip into animal feed, infecting even more cattle.

The emergence of BSE has led to the death of a million cattle and at least 24 humans.

The inquiry was told that there were concerns about the rendering industrys practices during the 1970s.

Keith Meldrum, now the chief veterinary officer, wrote a letter in June 1980 expressing regret that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) had missed its opportunity in 1975 and 1976 to bring in regulations that could have prevented dangerous animal diseases from being spread via rendering plants.

However, renderers told the inquiry that the BSE outbreak was not their fault, because they used the same practices at the same time as other countries.

Rendering company representatives denied that flawed cooking in plants had allowed the agent to survive. But they conceded export regulations fell far below the standards normally required for effective treatment of waste.

  • The Independent 30/04/98 page 9