BBC drops its pounds 1m Christmas TV turkey

A pounds 1m Christmas food scare spoof on "mad turkey disease" has been pulled from the BBC's Christmas television schedules because of the Scottish E coli outbreak which has now killed 12 people and infected nearly 400.

The drama, entitled Gobble, was to have been screened next Saturday but it was shelved on Friday after executives decided the timing was "inappropriate".

Michael Jackson, Controller of BBC 1, took the decision to axe the Screen One production on Friday at the end of an all-day meeting with executives. "It was decided that we should not show the film in view of the food poisoning outbreak in Scotland," a spokesman said.

"The BBC has decided that it is not appropriate at this particular time. It is mainly the fact that it was such a tragic outbreak. It is perfectly possible that we may show it at a more appropriate time in the New Year."

The film, a collaboration with Hat Trick Productions, which makes BBC 2's Have I Got News For You, stars Kevin Whately (Sgt Lewis in Inspector Morse) and Keith Barron (the star of Duty Free). It was written by Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, and cartoonist Nick Newman, and was directed by comedian Jimmy Mulville.

Set on a turkey farm in Berkshire, Gobble charts the birth of a food scare when an erroneous link is made between turkeys and a fatal illness in humans.

"The trigger was that there is nothing that the Government can say now that you would believe," Mr Hislop said in a recent interview publicising the film.

"If a spokesman says that a type of food is completely safe, you'd think they were lying; if they say it's not safe, then there's a major panic. They are in a no-win situation. The point is to show how absurd these things have become. It's too easy to blame the Government. The media have a lot to answer for and so do the public."

The film was to have been a send-up of the way the BSE crisis and other food scares were handled by the Government, the media, farmers, animal rights activists and the consumer. Ironically, it has fallen foul of the very situation it intended to parody.

Seven of those who died in Scotland were pensioners infected by gravy in pies eaten during a lunch provided by Wishaw Old Parish Church in Lanarkshire. Tom Donaldson, clerk to the congregational board, welcomed the BBC's decision to hold the film.

"Under the circumstances, we would fully endorse the move," he said. "Even the mere mentioning of food poisoning can bring back memories."

n The number of deaths in the outbreak reached 12 yesterday when an elderly woman died from E coli food poisoning in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The total number of cases is now just under 400: 24 adults and four children remain in hospital, with 15 adults giving cause for concern.

E coli profile, page 19

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