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Beef Crisis: Dangerous living

How dangerous is a T-bone steak? If you drive to a restaurant with a new friend, eat a steak (on the bone), walk home, climb the stairs, have unprotected sex, then have a cigarette, which was the most risky? On the basis of the latest fatality statistics and behavioural surveys, this is how dangerous certain activities were in Britain last year.

There was one death from new-variant CJD per 200,000 whole cows consumed; one death of a driver or passenger per 15 million car journeys; one death of a pedestrian per 200 million roads crossed; one fatal fall per 500 million staircases climbed; one death from Aids for 3 million acts of unsafe sex; one death from lung cancer per 2 million cigarettes smoked.

On these figures, the risk from beef seems very small- about one death per 30 million half-pound portions. Steak is twice as safe as getting into a car and15 times safer than one cigarette. Yet the risk is still unquantifiable, which is why the Government dares not say "Let them eat steak".

But there is one more figure: In the last two years, there have been 22 deaths from vCJD and 13 deaths from CJD that occurred as a result of a medical procedure. You are more likely to catch CJD from your doctor than a cow.