Letter: Is our beef safe?

Sir: In 1981 the ministry of agriculture (MAFF) removed, in the name of deregulation, the tough guidelines which had for many decades protected our cattle from catching scrapie from the sheep carcasses which went into their feed.

Inevitably, therefore, the first cow went down with Scrapie (now entitled BSE) in 1985, and by November 1986, when six more cases had been identified, their vets told MAFF that this mysterious and almost indestructible scrapie agent had now got into the national herd. The vets were told to keep quiet about it, however, and nothing further was done for two years during which time it spread all over the UK.

Since they are responsible for the whole terrible BSE saga, the Tories are hardly in a position to criticise the present Government's handling of it ("Brown rejects both trade war and resignation", 10 December). MAFF were repeatedly warned in 1988 and 1989 that humans were at risk but they did not listen.

The whole catastrophe would have been avoided if those vital guidelines had been retained. Above all the grotesque tragedy of "new variant" CJD would never have happened.

H C GRANT

Neuropathologist

London NW3

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