Letter: BSE inquiry

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Sir: You report (10 November) that the Minister of Agriculture is considering demands for a public inquiry into links between BSE in cattle and CJD in humans. Although the Government may have changed, the members of Whitehall who were involved with the BSE blunders have not. We simply must find out what happened with BSE.

Why was no calculated risk assessment carried out? How were people picked as advisers who knew little about the science of the disease? Why was selective advice from scientists used for decision-making and how? Why was information given to the public misleading?

Regulations were not enforced; research was actually curtailed; infected bovine feed was knowingly exported; pharmaceutical companies were advised not to research methods of treatment; the EU was told that there was no risk.

UK agriculture has sailed ahead of the world so it is not surprising that we hit the rocks first. A judicial inquiry is the way to avoid this for the future. Attempts by a new Food Standards Authority, for instance, may be inadequate. It will not be able to subpoena witnesses.

Dr STEPHEN DEALLER

Consultant Medical Microbiologist

Burnley General Hospital

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