Letter: BSE research

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The Independent Online
Sir: Last Thursday's Dispatches report on Channel 4 showed how scientists dealing with BSE tried to publish the data that they found but it was kept hidden by higher decisions.

At the time I was one of the few "outside" people who knew enough of the subject to enable them to tell me in private what was happening, and I am now worried that they will be used as the scapegoats.

I knew that Ministry of Agriculture announcements to the public were misleading, and that the truth was much more severe than what seemed to be getting through to the House of Commons. I cannot see how the civil servants involved would admit those decisions to any inquiry without subpoenas, and without that, it would seem that it was the scientists who did not carry out the necessary research.

Of course they knew in 1989 that BSE was not the same as scrapie, that it would infect different animals, that we ate large amounts of bovine brain, that a major risk had been taken, and we were doing no research into methods of treatment or diagnosis.

This must not happen again and we must find out how it came about.


Consultant Microbiologist

Burnley General Hospital

Burnley, Lancashire

The writer is secretary of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Research Campaign