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Calman on cows

Former chief medical officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, was one of over 150 witnesses to give evidence to the BSE inquiry. The inquiry is considering whether the 29 people who have died since May 1995 of new variant CJD have done so because they ate infected beef. Sir Kenneth accuses the Ministry of Agriculture of underestimating the extent of the BSE crisis and failing to spot the flouting of regulations. He told the inquiry that the public were misled between 1989 and 1995 because the government failed to police its own rules. Assurances given by him to the public that beef could be safely eaten by everyone, were based on the fact that a system to ensure effective controls had been put in place by MAFF. He was dismayed when he learned in October 1995 that bans on potentially infectious materials were not working, despite previous assurances to the contrary. This led to recommendations for the banning of mechanically recovered meat. Sir Kenneth said it was not until March 1996 that the specialist committee set up to advise health ministers decided that there was a possibility that young people had died because they ate beef before 1989. The inquiry continues with the evidence of government ministers and families of those who have died of new variant CJD.

Source: Health Service Journal 15 October; Guardian 10 October

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