12 October 1998
Abattoirs and farmers ‘flouted BSE rules’
By FWi staff
THE Government misled the public over the safety of beef for six years because farmers and abattoirs ignored rules aimed at keeping infected offal out of the human food chain, the BSE Inquiry was told this morning (Monday).
Sir Kenneth Calman, the Governments former chief medical officer, said human health was put at risk between 1989 and 1995 because the Government failed to police legislation banning offal from food products.
Sir Kenneth, who retired last month, claimed Government officials told the public that beef was safe to eat even though contaminated offal “may well” have entered the human food chain.
A ban on potentially contaminated offal was introduced in 1989. But six years later, in October 1995, Sir Kenneth discovered that the ban was not working.
In November 1995, Sir Kenneth told Douglas Hogg, then agriculture minister, that he was no longer convinced beef was safe. The attitude of farmers and abattoirs was “astonishing”, Sir Kenneth said.
“I informed the minister of my view that I found the attitude of those with primary responsibility for implementation [of the ban], namely the farming industry and slaughterhouse owners and operators, astonishing.”
Sir Kenneth said the Government failed to police the ban and “understated” evidence that infected material might have entered the food chain.
In particular, he singled out Keith Meldrum, former chief veterinary officer at MAFF, who had reported four cases of spinal cords being left in carcasses.
“These findings were referred to by [Mr Meldrum] as `disappointing,” Sir Kenneth said. “He understated the importance of this information.”
Mr Meldrum will give evidence to the inquiry next week. But speaking to the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Mr Meldrum refuted Sir Kenneths allegations:
“I should be judged by my actions and not by my words,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that those who are following the inquiry are not able to see the totality of the picture and therefore the comments from Sir Kenneth Calman are not being seen against the comments from my old department.”