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Letter: Early warning against BSE

Early warning against BSE

Sir: As long ago as February 1989, on the Nine O'Clock News, I warned the public about "the possibility of a link between BSE and CJD" (report, June 14), because I was aware that experiments on the original disease in sheep, scrapie, had revealed that primates, our closest animal relatives, developed CJD - not after intra-cerebral injections but when offered scrapie- infected brain to eat, mixed with other foods, as part of their ordinary daily diet.

The incubation period following intra-cerebral inoculation (the method used in the recent experiment) is much shorter than that following oral administration - work which is doubtless already under way and which will presumably also be positive.

Our cattle were finally protected from catching scrapie by the July 1988 ban on infective feed (UK citizens were not similarly protected until November 1989 to January 1990, and then not completely). When I discovered, in 1989, that we were continuing to export the infected feed to other countries ("It's all right, madam, it goes with a government health warning" - MAFF press office), I warned the French and German ministries of agriculture about the risks. The French ignored me and are therefore not now in a position to complain. The Germans did their homework, of course, and banned our beef in October 1989, causing John Gummer to offer Cordelia a beefburger with the immortal words: "What's good enough for my daughter is good enough for the Germans." A few days later he announced that cattle brains would be banned from human food, but calves' brains were exempted and still go into meat products.



London NW3