09 April 1998
Edwina Currie got slaughtered instead of the hens
Edwina Currie has accused the Conservative government of trying to “shut her up” and cover up the problem when she forced to resign as a junior health minister during the 1988 salmonella-in-eggs scare.
She claimed that colleagues had found it easier to “slaughter the
minister” rather than the hens when she announced that most of the eggs produced in the country were infected with the bacteria.
Mrs Currie was speaking after government food safety advisers expressed concern that the incidence of salmonella in eggs had changed little between 1991 and 1996.
She said the number of people dying from food poisoning caused by salmonella had fallen from 60 or 70 a year to about 30, but “the problem was still there”.
She said: “We probably compensated the wrong people. We compensated those farmers who went of out business instead of taking out in a really aggressive way the infected flocks and making sure those infected farms were properly set up with clean flocks.”
Mrs Currie was interviewed on Radio 4s Today programme.
In 1991 researchers from the Public Health Laboratory Service found that one in every 650 eggs contained salmonella. The virulent strain, which caused the scare, was present in one in every 1,320 eggs.
New, unpublished figures are thought to show that about one in every 700 eggs contained salmonella bacteria in 1996. Some 2 million birds were slaughtered between 1989 and 1993 but the problem persists.
Andrew Parker, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, dismissed Mrs Curries claim that some chicken feed might still retain ground-up chicken remains – a possible cause of the problem – and insisted that the practice had stopped about 10 years ago.