BSE Inquiry: Southwood warned not to cost taxpayers money

12 March 1998

BSE Inquiry

THE scientist who chaired the Southwood Committee working party, which
examined BSE in the late 1980s, told the BSE inquiry yesterday that he was warned not to recommend measures which would cost taxpayers money.

Professor Sir Richard Southwood said that before the group began working in 1988, Sir Derek Andrews, who was permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry at the time, told him he hoped “any recommendations we would make `would not lead to any increase in public expenditure”.

Sir Derek has challenged the evidence in a letter to the inquiry claiming
there was no record of anything that would bear that interpretation.

Sir Richards working party reported in 1989 that the risk to human health
from BSE was remote. This formed the basis for government policy until March 1996.

He said he was worried about being pilloried for wasting public money
but the working party had still been privately concerned that insufficient
funds were being made available. It wanted farmers to receive full compensation for infected cattle to discourage them from pushing the animals through the food chain.

He said the working party had been horrified to discover that apart from the heads, cattle with BSE symptoms were going into the human food chain. They felt it was their job to stop that immediately. Working party members were concerned that regulations implementing their recommendations had not been diligently enforced.

The inquiry also heard the claim that the former Tory governments failure to order an immediate ban on meat and bone meal in cattle and sheep feed may have extended the epidemic by up to five years.

Lord Walton, of Detchant, former Professor of Neurology at Newcastle
University, said if he had known in the Eighties about the new variant of CJD he would have recommended a ban on all beef bone, central and peripheral nervous tissues from the human food chain.

  • Financial Times 12/03/98 page 8
  • The Scotsman 12/03/98 page 2
  • The Daily Telegraph 12/03/98 page 13
  • The Guardian 12/03/98 page 6
  • The Times 12/03/98 page 8
  • The Independent 12/03/98 page 4

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