02 December 1998
Waldegrave denies criticism of action on BSE

WILLIAM WALDEGRAVE, the former agriculture minister and health secretary, rejected criticism that the last Conservative Government had protected the farming industry by playing down the threat to human health from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

He said food safety had always been of “paramount concern” while he was agriculture minister. He said he thought that the best way of protecting the industry was to be “tough on public health issues”.

Waldegrave said his department had a policy of “openness”, but implicitly admitted there were difficulties in getting across information. He said the public required clear and simple answers on whether eating beef was safe, whereas the scientific research was more complex.

He told the inquiry that ministers were confident about its scientific advice which maintained there was no link between BSE and CJD, the human variant of the disease. That there subsequently proved to be a link came as a “thunderbolt”.

  • The Times 02/12/98 page 11
  • The Independent 02/12/98 page 6
  • Financial Times 02/12/98 page 13
  • The Daily Telegraph 02/12/98 page 11