BSE probe chief warns of tip of iceberg

17 December 1999

BSE probe chief warns of ‘tip of iceberg’

By Johann Tasker

THE chairman of the BSE Inquiry has warned in that current cases of nvCJD, the human form of the disease, may be “the tip of an iceberg of infection”.

Lord Justice Phillips made the comments during his closing statement on the last day of the BSE inquiry in south London this morning (Friday).

He said: “No-one can say whether or not those victims are just the tip of an iceberg of infection that is still concealed from sight.

“It is an unusual inquiry in that, while we are investigating events which led to a disaster, the full extent of that disaster may not be clear for many years to come.”

It is thought that Lord Phillips final report will not hold back from criticising former government ministers.

He said: “We shall, in our report, indicate where we have had concerns about the adequacy of the response to BSE and explain our conclusions in relation to the those concerns.”

He added that it was vital to identify any improvements in the way national systems operate when faced with a challenge such as BSE.

Lord Phillips concluded: “It is now for us to prepare a report which reviews the BSE story, identifies what went right and what went wrong, and draws attention to the lessons to be learned for the future.

“Those lessons must help government to rebuild trust in the systems that protect both human and animal health.”

The report, which is due before the end of March, will assess the adequacy of the response to the BSE crisis up to March 1996.

The inquiry, which ends on the day the beef-on-the-bone ban is lifted, is expected to cost about £26 million.

It was announced by former agriculture minister Jack Cunningham in December 1997.

The first hearing was on 9 March, 1998.

It has taken 140 hearing days to hear all the evidence from 300 witnesses, including experts on nvCJD.

More than 100 friends and family of CJD victims are expected to attend todays summing-up.

There have been 48 definite and probable cases of nvCJD in the UK since 1985, according to the latest government statistics.

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