BSE: Ministers betrayed public trust

26 October 2000

BSE: Ministers betrayed public trust

By FWi staff

MINISTERS and civil servants repeatedly misled the public about the threat to human health from mad cow disease, says the report from the BSE Inquiry.

The long-awaited report was unveiled after a statement by agriculture minister Nick Brown in the House of Commons on Thursday (26 October).

It slams the way civil servants and ministers handled the BSE crisis until 1996, when they admitted the disease could be linked to CJD, its human equivalent.

The failure to halt BSE was largely due to a culture of bureaucracy and secrecy between rival government departments and top civil servants, it says.

But the report concludes that there was no deliberate plot to protect the livestock farmers or the beef industry at the expense of consumers.

However, it does criticise former agriculture minister Douglas Hogg and former health secretary Stephen Dorrell for playing down the risks from BSE.

The 16-volume report was compiled after two years of public hearings chaired by Lord Justice Phillips of Worth Matravers.

To date, CJD has claimed 84 victims. The families of more than 70 people who have died travelled to London to attend the release of the report.

The government will now establish a national fund to care for the victims of CJD, coordinated through the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh.

The Food Standards Agency said that the report had given no immediate rise for any worries regarding current food safety regulations.

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