Letter: BSE: The Ministry carries on with its experiment on the British public

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is good to learn that a computerised model of the past and future pattern of the BSE epidemic (report, 29 August) bears out with mathematics what I predicted in evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture in 1990 and in letters in your columns: namely, that BSE would fizzle out about AD2000, that it would be maternally transmitted and that many more BSE-infected animals were going into our food chain than were being destroyed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

You are right to comment of this new research that it cannot cast any light on the most important aspect of the BSE saga - whether the new variant of CJD is related to eating BSE-infected material: mathematics cannot help us there. But we do not need help in this matter. The unique finding in 1996 of 12 cases of CJD all in people under 40, all occurring in the UK within 30 months and all exhibiting the "new" strain happened in the only country in the world which, uniquely also, has fed upwards of 700,000 BSE-infected cattle to its citizens since about 1985, including until November l989 the most highly infective organs. Logic tells us that these two unique observations must be related.

When MAFF finally did for humans what it had done for cattle more than a year earlier, namely banned infective brain material from our foods, they exempted the brains of calves although it was likely that calves, like lambs, would be born infected. Calves' brains are still not banned and may be added to meat pies, pates, stock cubes and tinned items although MAFF have known for several years - but denied it until a few weeks ago - that maternal transmission occurs in BSE as it does in scrapie. Thus we UK citizens are still the subjects of an ongoing transmission experiment courtesy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries - and Food.

H C GRANT, MD, FRCP

London NW3

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