Document Directory

10 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE 'could still be in food chain'
10 Oct 00 - CJD - New fear of BSE in local beef
10 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE meat risk warning
10 Oct 00 - CJD - Farmers' 'private kills' could bring infection into human food chain
04 Oct 00 - CJD - How we swallowed the BSE lie
04 Oct 00 - CJD - That's the beef
04 Oct 00 - CJD - Currie gets all in a stew again
03 Oct 00 - CJD - Politicians said it was safe, but the slides proved them wrong
03 Oct 00 - CJD - Milburn offers care for CJD victims
03 Oct 00 - CJD - Scientists investigate outbreak of copper poisoning in cattle
03 Oct 00 - CJD - Tory ministers named in critical BSE report
02 Oct 00 - CJD - Fifth death linked to CJD
02 Oct 00 - CJD - Long-awaited BSE crisis report delivered to government
02 Oct 00 - CJD - vCJD victim's parents saw son dying in front of her eyes
02 Oct 00 - CJD - Fifth death linked to CJD village
02 Oct 00 - CJD - Ex-ministers in firing line as BSE report is delivered
02 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE report 'to criticise Tory ministers'
02 Oct 00 - CJD - Farm worker is fourth victim in CJD 'death valley'

10 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE 'could still be in food chain'

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Tuesday 10 October 2000

Food standards chairman fears farmers may still be sending infected meat to market

Sir John Krebs, head of the Food Standards Agency, today voiced new concerns that meat infected with BSE could still be finding its way into the food chain .

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today, Mr Krebs warned that, under existing rules, beef can be exempt from strict BSE inspection controls if the animal is slaughtered at unlicensed premises for private consumption by the owner . But there are no checks to ensure that such meat is not sold on privately.

"The concern is perhaps some of this meat is being passed on or sold on for wider consumption," he said, adding that cattle aged over 30 months are deemed unfit for human consumption but that does not apply to meat from a private kill. And there was no way of ensuring parts such as brains and spinal tissues - feared to be the most dangerous part of an infected animal - had been properly removed, he said.

Jill Newt, the chair of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons advisory committee, said there was no doubt meat from private kills was entering the food chain . "I think consumers should be aware that anyone offering them cheap meat should get a second look at where that animal was killed and where that meat was cut up," she told Farming Today.

Peter Scott, a director of the British Meat Federation which represents abattoirs, called for the end of the exemptions for privately killed animals : "This is a problem for the Food Standards Agency and it's a dilemma which they, and before them Maff [the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries], have faced for a number of years," he said.

10 Oct 00 - CJD - New fear of BSE in local beef

By Valerie Elliott

Times ... Tuesday 10 October 2000

FARMERS could face new curbs on privately slaughtered beef amid fears that BSE-infected meat is entering the food chain .

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, yesterday warned the public - particularly in rural areas - to watch out for beef killed on a farm or at an unlicensed abattoir .

He said that such beef fell outside the rigid BSE controls and could even come from cattle aged over 30 months , which is banned from sale for human consumption .

He said that farmers were allowed to feed this older meat to their own family but were not allowed by law to sell it or give it away. "The concern is that some of this meat is passed on or sold on for wider consumption, which would be against the law," Sir John said. "Even giving it away counts as a sale in the eyes of the law."

He confirmed that the possibility of new controls was being considered.

Sir John is also worried that high-risk BSE-infected parts of cattle - such as the spinal cord and brain - might not be removed in private slaughter and the meat could enter the food chain. "That's precisely why we're concerned about both the extent to which this goes on and the possibility that meat or meat products from private kills might get into the wider food chain."

He said last night that there was no evidence of widespread sale of such meat and there was no link with a case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but he believed that the public should be fully alert to any cheap meat offered them. He said they should ask where it was slaughtered and if there were any health marks to show that it has passed through a licensed abattoir.

The meat industry is extremely concerned by the news and fear that it could affect beef sales . Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Federation, which represents abattoirs, last night called for BSE controls to be extended to "private kills". "We believe if there's any risk then that loophole must be closed," he said.

10 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE meat risk warning

Staff Reporter

BBC ... Tuesday 10 October 2000

British meat eaters are being warned that BSE-infected beef could still be getting into the food chain .

The head of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, said farmers might be passing on meat which had not been subject to stringent safety checks .

If there's any risk at all, then that loophole must be closed said British Meat Federation director Peter Scott

Under existing rules, beef is exempt from strict controls if it is killed on a farm or at an unlicensed abattoir for the owner's consumption .

But Sir John told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme that checks were needed to ensure this meat was not ending up on other dinner plates.

No guarantees

It is illegal to sell meat from these sources, and consumers in rural areas have been warned to think twice about buying cheap meat from unchecked courses.

"The concern is perhaps some of this meat is being passed on or sold on for wider consumption ," said Sir John.

Cattle aged over 30 months are deemed unfit for human consumption, but that does not apply to meat from a private kill.

Sir John said there was also no way of ensuring that parts such as brains and spinal tissues - regarded as the most dangerous part of an infected animal - had been properly removed.

"That's precisely why we're concerned about both the extent to which this goes on and the possibility that meat or meat products from private kills might get into the wider food chain," he said.

End exemptions

Jill Newt, chairman of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons advisory group, said there was no doubt that meat from private kills was entering the food chain.

"I think consumers should be aware that anyone offering them cheap meat should get a second look at where that animal was killed and where that meat was cut up," she told Farming Today.

Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Federation, which represents abattoirs, called for the end of the exemptions for privately killed animals.

"This is a problem for the Food Standards Agency and it's a dilemma which they, and before them Maff, have faced for a number of years," he said.

"We believe, in this day and age, if there's any risk at all, then that loophole must be closed ."

A report into the BSE crisis, handed in to the government, last week, is expected to be made public at the end of the month.

10 Oct 00 - CJD - Farmers' 'private kills' could bring infection into human food chain

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Tuesday 10 October 2000

Sir John Krebs, the head of the Food Standards Agency, yesterday warned that a loophole in the law may be allowing BSE-infected meat to enter the human food chain .

Farmers who slaughter cattle privately for their own consumption do not have to abide by the strict regulations designed to protect humans against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) .

Sir John said there is anecdotal evidence of some farmers selling this meat to the public using a black market, which could be a source of BSE-contaminated beef . Farm guests - paid or otherwise - could also have been fed such beef.

Cattle more than 30 months old are not permitted to be slaughtered by licensed abattoirs, but this restriction does not apply to cattle killed by an unlicensed slaughterhouse for a farmer's private consumption, Sir John told Radio 4's Farming Today programme.

He added: "The requirement to remove the specified risk material, which is the area of the body which may contain infectivity - that requirement wouldn't necessarily be applied in the case of a private kill.

"That is precisely why we are concerned about both the extent to which this goes on and the possibility that meat or meat products from private kills might get into the wider food chain.

"This issue is one that was raised to us in our review of the BSE controls and we may or may not be able to resolve it in the short term, but we do want to raise consumer awareness of it and make sure that in the longer term work is done to tighten up this loophole."

Professor Peter Smith, who is acting chairman of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac), said he was also unhappy with the legal loophole being used by farmers.

"I'd be concerned about cattle over 30 months of age being consumed by anyone. If we're trying to protect public health, there's no reason why farmers should be any different to the rest of the public," he said.

Sir John said farmers in Britain have been allowed to slaughter and consume their own livestock, but the law is not clear on whether they are allowed to serve it to their families or other house guests .

Peter Scott, the director of the British Meat Federation, which represents licensed abattoirs, said there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that meat from unlicensed abattoirs is being made available to the wider publi c.

"I would strongly suspect that the animals in them that are brought in by farmers for private kills are returned to the farmers in quantities that would be difficult to consume in one family over a reasonable period of time ," he said.

Unlicensed abattoirs are not inspected on a regular basis by the Meat Hygiene Service. Mr Scott said he wanted all meat destined for human consumption to be slaughtered in licensed premises, where animals can be adequately inspected and all specified offal removed in accordance with BSE controls.

04 Oct 00 - CJD - How we swallowed the BSE lie

by Allison Pearson

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 4 October 2000

It was at the East Coast Boat Show in May 1990 that the then Minister of Agriculture fed a beefburger to his six-year-old daughter . I seem to remember that Cordelia Gummer was a little uncertain about having that snack posted between her lips, but she was a good girl and did as Daddy asked.

He seemed relieved - "It's delicious! I can assure the public there is no cause for concern " - but his eyes darted behind his spectacles as if looking for a way out. You see, Daddy had a lot at stake in that burger . An entire farming industry depended on it.

There were rumours circulating that BSE - mad cow disease - could get into humans and John Gummer was put on the spot by reporters. If British beef was 100 per cent safe , surely he'd let his daughter eat it? So he did .

In the same month that Mr Gummer fed the burger to Cordelia, a cat in Bristol called Max started falling over; shortly afterwards he lost his mind. Mad Max , as he became known, was found by vets to have BSE. The cow disease had passed into another species .

"That was when we started to think we could be in real trouble ," one scientist told me recently. "If BSE could jump into cats, it meant it was that much more likely it could get into humans ."

So scientists, at least, were not 100 per cent certain in 1990 that British beef was safe - some began quietly to ban it in their own homes , as did civil servants and journalists who had heard nervous whispers .

But the public, reassured by Little Miss Gummer, went on clearing their plates like good boys and girls. It would be a further six years before Stephen Dorrell - all the blood drained from his face - stood up in the House of Commons and admitted that, following the deaths of 10 people from a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, it was now not impossible that BSE could infect humans through beef products .

And what had been the policy of the Government in those crucial intervening years? Well, let's see; to gag or ridicule anyone who tried to suggest that BSE posed a threat to the population, to act at every turn to protect the interests of the farmers , to ignore the advice of scientists , to quell "public anxiety" when the public might usefully have begun to panic.

If you were feeling kind, you might call this policy Wait and See; if you weren't... if you were, for example, feeling very angry, you'd call it Better Sorry than Safe .

Not that they were sorry, of course. Sorry might cost money . Even when the Government tried to do the right thing, they did it wrong. Farmers were offered half the going rate for cattle stricken with BSE. Anyone could have told you that some would sell their sick beasts to collect the full amount .

Anyone, that is, except the Ministry of Agriculture . When measures were finally introduced to compel abbatoirs to remove the most infective parts from the cow's carcass they were never enforced : bits of spine and brain continued to drip into cheap food destined for our schools and hospitals . To err is human, to persist in error when it may harm people is the opposite of human.

The report of the Phillips Inquiry into the BSE scandal will shortly be made public. I'm not sure whether Lord Phillips has any punishments in mind, but, personally, I think a field trip might be in order. How about we hire a coach and take gentlemen who served in the Ministries of Agriculture and Health in the 1990s on a tour of Britain? First stop, Queniborough, Leicestershire, where last week 24-year-old Christopher Reeve became the fourth person in that village to die of variant CJD. Too upset to talk, his parents posted this notice in the local paper:

"Christopher has passed away peacefully after as much pain as anybody could cope with." As much pain as anybody could cope with. The anger in those words could burn you.

A decade after little Cordelia Gummer ate Daddy's burger , we have good reason to suspect that BSE found it easiest to get into children and teenagers . Most of the 75 dead are under 30 and the cases get younger each month . As I write, out there somewhere a 12-year-old is dying .

After eating BSE-contaminated meat, a person incubates the infection in his or her spleen; approximately 10 years later it travels up the spinal column into the brain which it then destroys - a mad cow in the china shop of your mind. Like the cattle, victims lose their balance and start to stagger.

Next, their speech slurs; soon it will be impossible to swallow. There are hallucinations, disorientation, gale-force black moods .

Ahead are blindness and death . "I feel thick and out of control," a terrified Claire McVey yelled at her mother. She died in January aged 15.

Only 75 killed so far, and eight dying, but each one an epicentre of horror for family, friends and the doctors and nurses who can only watch.

Two years ago, Stephen Dorrell told an inquiry that he should have made it clear to the public that the word "safe" did not mean 100 per cent risk-free . The word "dead" unfortunately means dead .

There is no happy ending to the BSE story, but at least we could hope that the grieving families would receive proper compensation, some token of society's deep regret. A Whitehall letter leaked last week, however, revealed that the present Government does not want to pay compensation .

There will be considerable pressure to accept the [Phillips] inquiry findings and apportion blame," it said, "but to do so would be to risk incurring unforeseeably large expenditure depending on the scale of human disease, for which there would otherwise be no legal grounds."

So, if all the chaps stick to the same story they should be in the clear, eh?

Four billion pounds in compensation has already been paid to the farmers for the corpses of their cattle .

And for the bodies of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers? Nothing.

Not unless relatives submit to the ordeal of a fight, perhaps all the way to the European Court, and can prove that their Government failed to fulfil its duty of care.

The legacy of BSE may not, as we once feared, be miles of graveyards. (The number of CJD cases is still rising, though they could stay in the hundreds rather than the thousands.) What is certain is that the relationship between the rulers and the ruled is now infected with mistrust .

We were handed a lie, and we swallowed it .

04 Oct 00 - CJD - That's the beef

Jonathan Freedland

Guardian ... Wednesday 4 October 2000

We were horrified by mad cow disease and we distrust GM foods. And we've all lost faith in politicians

The Conservatives have a new slogan, one which drops neatly into almost any speech on any subject. William Hague and Michael Portillo insist they are "ready to govern". The subliminal message is clear enough: the Tories have learned their lesson from '97, they are reformed characters, free of the bad habits of the past.

But a mixture of fate and some canny Labour timing has worked to undermine the claim - by reminding voters all too luridly of that Tory past. Just yesterday, while Hague was bounding around the stage in his best McKinsey presentation mode, two of the most ghoulish Conservative ghosts were rising from the grave .

At Bow Street magistrates court, Jeffrey Archer was formally charged with multiple counts of perjury and perverting the course of justice. He plays the Accused on stage and he is the accused in court - a flesh-and-blood reminder of the successive waves of sleaze which drowned the last Tory government.

Meanwhile sleaze's lethal twin was on the march once again, the affair which as much as Messrs Hamilton and Aitken came to define the mid-90s as the dog days of Tory rule: BSE.

On Monday, Lord Phillips handed 16 closely-written volumes to the health and agriculture secretaries, the fruit of his two-year inquiry into "mad cow disease". That crisis has not only claimed more than 80 British lives; it also fatefully linked Conservatism in the public mind with decay and distrust . To the folks in Bournemouth the Phillips report, not officially published until the end of the month, was an unwelcome reminder of all that - with most Hague operatives assuming the timing was a Labour dirty trick.

Beyond that, they don't have much to say. They know the archive footage of Douglas Hogg in his fedora , or John Gummer force-feeding a hamburger to his reluctant young daughter , can only be bad news for their cause. But they have no defence to make. They don't want to defend the past administration, they'd rather just move on. They know that when it comes to BSE, the Tories are in for a shredding .

But the after-effects of the disease are not only damaging the Conservatives' health. There are countless people and powerful interest groups who are also grappling with the legacy of BSE: from farmers to doctors, politicians to journalists, consumers to citizens. We are all in the shadow of this disease .

Perhaps the farmers are most obvious. "Our rural areas are dying," declared one Tory yesterday, seizing his moment to put a question to Mr Hague in the leader's Q & A session. He said he was "proud" to be a farmer, but furious to be cast as "a self-interested subsidy junkie" by the press.

He did not ask how this had happened, how farmers who were once seen as trusted custodians of the countryside were now regarded with a suspicion bordering on loathing . But if he had put the question, the answer would have been just three letters long: BSE.

mad cow disease dispelled forever the romantic, pastoral image of Farmer Giles , replacing it with a bleakly realistic picture of a modern agribusiness prepared to resort to animal cannibalism to boost the bottom line . Relations between town and country have never really recovered: townies fear farmers want to poison them, country folk reckon the urbanites won't rest until they have concreted over every last inch of green and pleasant land.

The latter sentiment courses through the Countryside Alliance, out in force in Bournemouth: they feel angry and misunderstood, utterly alienated from "the Islington wine bar" set who, Mr Hague told them yesterday, really run the country. Rural voters complain loudly about bus services, village schools and hunting - a way of life under threat, they say - but they get little sympathy from an urban population which has neither forgiven nor forgotten BSE.

Scientists, too, have been affected. They used to rank close to the top in the trust ratings, but in the post-BSE era they have lost their place . A striking aspect of the debate over genetically-modified food is the way in which scientific advice is not trusted to settle the matter: consumers dismiss official statements as mere "opinions", not much more valid than their own. Government scientists told them beef was safe when it wasn't - and consumers won't be fooled again.

Doctors still perform well on the trust rankings, but the Harold Shipman case and a clutch of other medical negligence convictions has eroded their esteem, too. Journalists were always bottom of the list, somewhere between estate agents and pond life, but their position has also suffered in the post-BSE era. If they raise the alarm, they are accused of panic- inducing sensationalism; if they say nothing, they are complicit with the pro- ducers in keeping consumers in the dark.

Even so, the biggest losers of respect must surely be the people at the top: the politicians . For it was not just Hogg , Gummer and the Tories who were blamed for mad cow disease. Voters developed a cynicism about politics itself - a sentiment whose force has been felt again this autumn. BSE persuaded too many Britons that politicians are incompetent , that they lie or cover up the truth - that they are all as bad as each other.

It persuaded consumers that the agriculture ministry does not speak for them but the farmers' lobby ; that government departments don't fight for the people so much as they fight each other .

So BSE has cut a swath through the public trust, cutting down farmers, doctors, politicians and civil servants alike. Yet we live in an era of innovation, with new risks appearing daily; GM is a textbook example. If we don't trust any of these people, who can we rely on to guide us through the new landscape? If we are no longer willing to defer to the old paternalists, who used to tell us what's good for us, who can we turn to?

A genuinely independent food standards agency will help, but something larger is needed, too: we need to act, as consumers and citizens. David Body, lawyer for the families bereaved by BSE, is convinced that there would have been no Phillips inquiry if his clients had not demanded it. He predicts that citizens are increasingly going to demand the information they need if they are to assess the risks for themselves . Other activists suggest new democratic devices, perhaps citizens' juries, where consumers could demand the expertise they want to hear and then weigh it themselves.

Judged like this, the Phillips report is a huge and positive first step. Citizens demanded it and soon we will have it - a well-resourced study of a public health disaster. It will serve as a guide to what went so fatally wrong , and a clue to how we can strive to make sure it never happens again .

04 Oct 00 - CJD - Currie gets all in a stew again

by Cal McCrystal

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 4 October 2000

Edwina Currie, the former health minister who reinvented herself as a successful novelist, is again applying her lash to Britain's food producers, following a mysterious new outbreak of mad cow disease . In an interview with the Evening Standard the woman who once blew the whistle on salmonella-infected eggs pulls no punches, rubbishing farming practices , rogue cattle feed suppliers and the "complacent" mandarins of Maff (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food). Words such as "stupid", "outrageous", "appalling", "incompetent" spill from her mouth. Her brown eyes flash in anger and contempt. No longer an MP, she feels no need to temper her tongue.

In the postwar scramble to promote the growth of farm animals artificially, she says, "various materials were tried, and it was discovered the chickens did exceptionally well on chicken-shit and the cows did exceptionally well on ground-up ruminants ". Result: calamity . Edwina Currie predicts more serious trouble ahead : many emergencies and many failures to respond to them adequately.

She enters the Millbank restaurant like a red alert, her cerise silk blouse aflame in the atrium's light, one arm clutching a bag, the other swinging vigorously like a one-armed soldier on the march. Since we are to examine an unsavoury subject over lunch - cannibal cows and lethally-contaminated meat - we both opt for goat's cheese and fish dishes. There is a hint of derision towards her former profession as she knifes into a very plump fish cake.

"You can tell this place is popular with politicians from the huge helpings," she says.

Later on, further disenchantment with modern "image politics" imbues her summary of "my new parliamentary novel" (publication due to coincide with the General Election, should Labour call one next year). Between, and sometimes during, hurried mouthfuls of fish cake, she explains: "The theme of it is spinning and substance; I suppose whether anybody ever tells the truth. I'll give you an example of a scene. A senior Cabinet minister summons his young spin doctor to give him a roasting about some remarks that have appeared in a newspaper about a woman colleague - being called a loose cannon and difficult.

"The minister says: 'Your fingerprints are all over this and you've got to be careful, for everybody knows you work for me and people might think these are my views.'

'But,' says the young spin doctor, 'These are your views. Exactly. Word for word.' 'Ah,' says the minister, 'it doesn't follow I want them broadcast.' The spin doctor says: 'I thought you did. That's what I told everybody.' At which point the young spin doctor realises he's being used, and what's happening in this discussion is being recorded for posterity in the Cabinet minister's memoirs, and that he, the young spin doctor, is going to be blamed for an outcome - the fall of the woman - that would in fact suit his master very well indeed.

"But there's another layer of it, because we happen to know the young spin doctor is keeping a diary as well. And we know that he is going to go straight back to his computer and type out his version. As he closes the door on being told to get out, he hears the sound of laughter coming from within the Cabinet minister's room. That's the flavour of it. It hit me during a long train journey.

"But to be honest, Cal, spin and substance are very dangerous matters . The public are not stupid. This is where Maff is absolutely wrong . If the public image is all you're interested in, and indeed, as in Maff's case, you're doing badly as well, then meantime you're not doing the job you should be doing. Your money's going on spin doctors instead of on inspectors. Am I making sense with all that?"

Entirely. Our meeting follows two melancholy occurrences: the discovery that eight cows might have contracted bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) despite the Government crackdown on adulterated animal feed, and Nick Brown's reaction ("I'm the Agriculture Minister. I'm not going to pontificate on food safety issues beyond the advice I've been given") when questioned about the continued practice of feeding animal blood, gelatine and tallow to cows thanks to a loophole in the law .

This year 850 cows born before the 1996 ban on feeding farmed livestock mammalian meat and bone have been diagnosed with BSE. However, a further eight animals born after the ban have also been diagnosed as likely BSE victims. Some scientists have expressed concern that it remains legal to use cows' blood in the food mixes . Maff confirms that one of the eight cows is infected with BSE but says that until a full diagnosis has been completed on the other seven it regards them as not infected.

Edwina Currie pitchforked her way up the noses of the agricultural establishment with her dire warnings about contaminated eggs in December 1988. She became one of many Tory casualties in New Labour's 1997 landslide election victory. But one suspects a strong desire to make humanity or the reading public her residuary legatee, to endow it with her achievements, to enrich it with her egotism, even to (as it were) strip herself bare in the marketplace - if not for the edification, at all events for the fascination, of John Citizen. Declining the sidelines, she has written seven books and presented programmes for television and radio ("I love radio!") since losing her Derbyshire South seat. Her interest in the nation's health seems unmitigated, as is her causticity.

"You must remember that the outcome of all this [Government incompetence] is that people are dying," she says. "The precautions against BSE entering the food chain between 1985 when the first case came up and 1990 when things really began to move were taken very slowly . It was months before recommendations were made and action was taken. The precautions were taken very half-heartedly . Probably the worst example was that fallen animals would have only 50 per cent compensation. The National Farmers Union branch in my own constituency raised this issue with me because they felt that less scrupulous farmers would be encouraged to take fallen animals to market where they'd get 100 per cent. This was a crass, stupid policy, Treasury-driven. I'm quite certain highly infectious animals were getting into the human food chain."

Even when "sensible precautions" eventually were introduced, "they were not enforced . The Maff was cocking a snook - winking at farmers that they had to bring in the regulations but that it didn't matter much ." Meat and bone meal were banned from human foodstuffs, "but my local farmers protested to me that they were told if they had any of the old stuff available, it was all right, they could continue to use it". Her voice rises. "The mills should have been closed and cleaned by independent contractors before being used again, but they weren't.

"A contractor in my constituency said that months after the ban the same stuff was still being produced because contractors were using up old stock. What is worse is that when it was realised that the infective material resided in brain and spine and that this must not get into the markets, there should have been a rapid increase in the number of meat inspectors and they should have been given power to close abattoirs on the spot. Neither of these things happened. Six years afterwards, a Scottish vet climbed into a van and discovered that animals were going to market with the spines intact ."

What that suggests to Currie is "a mind-set that says, 'Oh these things are not important.' It's unbelievable. This goes back to bad science, a cavalier attitude to public health and not having their priorities right."

The voice drops again. "I'm afraid part of this is my fault because I caused such a fuss over salmonella that the next scare that came up they were going to resist. It was everybody's hard luck that the next scare was actually BSE."

She is outraged that farmers have been compensated whereas the families of victims of CJD, the human variant of BSE, have received nothing and still face a long legal wrangle. "It seems to me that once we knew a connection was likely we should have set up a compensation scheme at once. It's a cruel and callous approach to say you have to take the cases through court."

Currie is patron of the Human BSE Foundation, run by the mother of one of the victims of CJD. The foundation, bringing together other victims' families, is dedicated to ensuring that such a calamity will not happen again. "But it will happen; sooner or later there is going to be an outbreak of something we've never heard of. But if it's dealt with efficiently and quickly it won't cause a big problem. Am I confident the Ministry of Agriculture in this country can do that? No, not at all." At that, she waves her arm wildly at a dilatory waiter.

The Maff-abuse is unabated. Maff is "disgusting" for allowing 22,000 tons of animal blood, tallow and gelatine to be fed to livestock every year . "They do the minimum and then think they're in the clear. 'You can't get us!' Why, after a decade of disgrace and shame, haven't the ministers and senior officials got their act together? They didn't shift on salmonella, and they didn't shift on BSE. We're getting exactly the same rubbish being talked as before ."

Consequently, she says, the public is moving away from factory farming, into organic food in a big way, "which often means imported". Animal welfare issues are "playing a very big part" - which increases costs and makes British farms uncompetitive. "My fear is that the consumer's willingness to go for organic is going to lead to further pest problems. I'm not a fan of organic, I have to confess. But is Maff monitoring organic food? Does it have an entire division very clued up on the science of more natural production? I'd like to lay odds that they haven't."

Polishing off the last of her fish cake, she mops up the sauce. "What I'm saying is, the public will make its own decisions. They have been moving away from red meat for years . As a result the seas are being swept clear of fish, and we're now eating some pretty poor-quality chicken, which is salmonella-ridden."

Does she mind being seen as a female Jeremiah? "Not at all. That is what I see as my duty - to be a Jeremiah."

03 Oct 00 - CJD - Politicians said it was safe, but the slides proved them wrong

By Steve Connor

Independent ... Tuesday 3 October 2000

If a single moment defined the 14-year crisis of "mad cow" disease it occurred on 8 March 1996 in a dismal government building in south London. The lights had been lowered for a slide presentation to be given to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) by a young Edinburgh pathologist who had some remarkable pictures of diseased brains in his suitcase.

James Ironside , of the National CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) Surveillance Centre, which was set up in 1990 specifically designed to identify unusual disturbances in the pattern of classical CJD, was the first person in the world to see what bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) does to the human brain . When he started showing his slides, the mood of the Seac members changed from business-like joviality to one of stunned silence. "There was an atmosphere of surprise. It was quite a significant occasion ," Dr Ironside later recalled with some understatement.

John Pattison, the urbane chairman of Seac, remembered the occasion well. "When he showed us the slides and before he said anything, we could see what it was. It was dramatically different from classical CJD ," Professor Pattison said.

With the vividness that only pictures possess, Dr Ironside had demonstrated to the assembled experts that a new brain disease of young people was stalking the land. It meant that after years of official reassurance it was now becoming clear that beef was not, after all, safe .

Dr Ironside began this particular picture collection in September 1995 as he peered down his microscope at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. The slices of brain material had come from a teenager who had died of what appeared to be CJD, which usually affects people over 50 .

It became immediately obvious that the teenager's brain had suffered highly unusual damage . Large, flower-shaped clusters, known as "florid plaques" , had formed between the nerve cells. Dr Ironside had studied hundreds of diseased brains and had never seen one quite like this. By the time of the meeting six months later, he was to have seen seven more .

The last few months of 1995 was an extraordinarily anxious time for those involved in BSE. Several farmers had died of CJD and the media were asking awkward questions about whether their deaths were due to close contact with BSE-infected cattle. On top of this, it was becoming embarrassingly obvious that safety measures in slaughterhouses designed to protect the human food chain against BSE were being flouted .

Soon after BSE was identified in cattle in November 1986, there were concerns about whether it could be transmitted to humans. A number of safety measures were introduced in 1989, including a ban on bovine brain, spinal cord of other offal material known to be most at risk of carrying the BSE agent. Yet more than five years later , in November 1995, Seac was to learn that slaughterhouses were routinely ignoring the legal requirement to remove and dispose of so-called specified bovine offal (SBO).

Spot checks on 16 slaughterhouses by inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) had found that a total of 30 pieces of spinal cord remained on dressed carcasses ready for delivery to butchers. Statisticians had estimated that about 0.4 per cent of carcasses consumed in Britain at that time might be contaminated - five years after measures had been introduced specifically to stop this from happening.

Robert Will, head of the CJD surveillance unit and then deputy chairman of Seac, was furious when the Maff informed him of the breach . The minutes of that Seac meeting in November 1995 testify to the anger that he and others scientific advisers felt after years of being reassured by the ministry that SBO material was being removed from carcasses. "I was appalled ," said Dr Will in evidence to the BSE inquiry, which opened in March 1998. "The implication was that high [amounts of] tissue, specifically bovine spinal cord, might be entering the human food chain."

But Dr Will had another problem. As the head of the CJD surveillance unit, he had to decide what to make of the newly emerging cases among young people. As one of the most influential scientists in this field, he knew that much would hang on precisely what he said publicly about them.

By January 1996 Dr Will knew of five young people who had died of CJD, but he was still unsure as to whether this was simply the result of a greater effort being put into looking for CJD - called "ascertainment bias" - or whether it was a genuinely new phenomenon.

"I had become increasingly concerned about the young cases of CJD, but there was insufficient scientific evidence to reach a conclusion about the novelty of these cases, nor to reach a judgement about whether these cases might be causally linked to BSE," Dr Will told the inquiry.

Meanwhile, the media coverage of BSE at the end of 1995 had reached fever pitch . Sir Bernard Tomlinson, the eminent neuropathologist, started the ball rolling by contradicting the smug reassurances of ministers that beef was safe. The Oxford brain researcher Colin Blakemore also came out against beef , saying "the taste is just not worth the risk".

The Meat and Livestock Commission had launched a vigorous propaganda offensive in reply to the growing doubts over the safety of beef. One advertisement even quoted Dr Will, to the scientist's dismay. "I was unhappy when I saw the advert published because I did not think that it accurately reflected my views in that it linked my name to each of the facts/fiction statements in the body of the advert and I had not been shown a copy of the final version of the advert before it was published ," Dr Will said.

As the first weeks of 1996 passed by, Dr Will's natural scepticism over what could be the cause of CJD among the youngsters came under intense strain. He gave a talk on 20 February 1996 to the Parliamentary Food and Health Forum, where he continued to make out a case for caution in terms of a possible link with BSE.

"The reason for this is that I did not on 20 February 1996 believe there was sufficient scientific evidence to make a judgement about whether these cases were truly novel, nor did I believe that there was sufficient scientific evidence to reach a judgement about a causal link between these cases and BSE," he said.

"It would have been completely irresponsible to voice my concerns at this meeting because this would have been likely to precipitate a crisis at a time when there was insufficient scientific evidence to make a judgement," he added.

"With hindsight and with the benefit of accumulated scientific evidence it is easy to forget that there was a real possibility in February 1996 that the young cases were not actually new and were not linked to BSE. If a crisis had been precipitated by speculation... this would have had potentially profound socio-economic and indirect public health implications."

Yet within weeks of this public meeting, Dr Will and Dr Ironside found themselves in the same room at Skipton House, a Department of Health building at the Elephant and Castle. They were there to advise Seac that the eight new cases of CJD among young people were most probably new to science and were very likely to be caused by BSE .

They said they would not release details until the work was formally published by a medical journal but that the final decision would be Seac's. Professor Pattison gave them another week to make further enquiries to see if the symptoms of the "new variant CJD" (v-CJD) could be found anywhere else in the world and arranged a further meeting of Seac in a week's time.

The following Saturday, on 16 March, Seac met again and asked Dr Will if any of his colleagues overseas had come across a similar set of symptoms; they had not. A ninth victim was also added to the list. Professor Pattison knew it was time to act. That Saturday evening, he informed the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, and the Chief Veterinary Officer, Keith Meldrum, of the findings.

Ministers were given the news on Monday. Douglas Hogg, then Minister of Agriculture, and Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health, told Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, that day. Professor Pattison briefed a meeting of the full cabinet on Wednesday morning, 20 March, along with the news that a 10th victim had been added to the list. The story had by now been leaked to the media and a press briefing was arranged along with a ministerial statement to the House of Commons.

It was left to Mr Dorrell to stand up and tell a packed House that the most likely cause of a deadly new brain disease in humans was BSE . It marked the point when all those bland government reassurances over the past safety of British beef finally crumpled in a wave of public outrage . No longer would politicians blithely use the word "safe" when it comes to human health.

03 Oct 00 - CJD - Milburn offers care for CJD victims

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Times ... Tuesday 3 October 2000

A new care package for victims of CJD is being planned by the Government.

The measure is expected to form a key element of the response by Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, to the findings of the BSE inquiry report which was delivered to the Government last night.

Ministers have accepted the complaints raised by families of victims of the fatal brain illness variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, especially those made over a lack of uniformity of healthcare provision across the country.

The Human BSE Foundation, which represents victims' families, is campaigning for a special budget to be administered by the national surveillance centre for the disease in Edinburgh. Experts at the centre could then buy in care on a local basis for any new patients. There are now a total of 84 cases of CJD, although some of the victims are still alive .

Families are also hoping that the Government will finally offer them an apology for past mistakes and a compensation scheme without need of lengthy court wrangling - especially as the cost of BSE compensation for farmers has been 4 billion.

(UK Correspondent's note:

Fact 1 - the government continues to operate a no fault compensation scheme for farmers for BSE infected cattle, despite the fact that farmers are the victims of their own stupidity by turning cattle into carnivores.

Fact 2: the government will not operate a similar scheme for innocent human victims.

Fact 3: the current Labour government, just like it's Conservative predecessor, values cows above human beings)

Nevertheless, their solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, of Sheffield, are to study the report in detail. But some families believe that those individuals most to blame for allowing contaminated beef into the food chain should be held personally accountable .

David Churchill, a retired fire officer, from Devizes, whose son, Stephen, 19, died in May 1995, believes that there should be a way of stripping public servants of their pension entitlements .

He said last night: "Surely some of these people involved should suffer? It may seem vengeful, but if you have innocently lost someone because of someone's incompetence, how do you right that wrong? If they are personally accountable, they should pay for it ."

Strict security procedures have been put in place to ensure that the BSE report is not leaked before its publication on October 26.

03 Oct 00 - CJD - Scientists investigate outbreak of copper poisoning in cattle

James Meikle

Guardian ... Tuesday 3 October 2000

Government scientists are investigating a potential new problem for Britain's cattle farmers , illness caused by an excess of copper ingested by cows, as ministers consider the verdict of an independent inquiry into how the BSE crisis was handled.

Food safety watchdogs and vets are trying to establish why there is an apparent increase in copper poisoning of livestock, although they believe that the risk to consumers is "very small" . Most cases so far have been concentrated in southern England and Wales and officials are trying to establish whether there has been any significant change in dietary supplements fed to cattle. Copper is a vital ingredient in improving animals' muscle, fertility and production value.

The alert over copper poisoning, a previously rare condition , was raised by government vets in a letter to the Veterinary Record, the profession's weekly journal. Fourteen outbreaks have been identified this year and the government is anxious to know about other suspected cases.

The vets said their investigations had not found "grossly excessive copper intakes" in rations on the affected farms and no single feed type seemed to be involved.

Animals struck by copper poisoning tend to suffer liver damage , which affects blood circulation . Symptoms include poor milking, abortion of calves and lack of coordination. The condition has so far affected only older cows , which are not used for food because of anti-BSE measures. In any case, infected offal should fail veterinary inspection in abattoirs, the food standards agency said.

"If you did eat liver with high copper content, you would not eat much more," said a spokesman. "It affects palatability."Danger from milk "is not something we consider a risk ".

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture said: "There are concerns because this is an animal health problem but I don't think anyone is concerned about human health implications ."

The revelation coincided with publication of figures showing a further rise in the number of people dying from variant CJD, the condition linked to eating parts of cattle infected with BSE, itself once considered to pose no risk to consumers , and the official handing over of the 16-volume report by the BSE inquiry team, headed by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, to the agriculture minister, Nick Brown. It will be published later this month.

Seventy-seven Britons are now thought to have died from vCJD, including three last month of whom one worked in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough , where there has been an apparent cluster of four deaths. The disease may have claimed 22 lives this year, although postmortem confirmation is awaited in four cases.Seven people are thought to be suffering the incurable condition. Scientists have warned of a rising trend in vCJD, although they remain reluctant to predict the eventual number of casualties.

03 Oct 00 - CJD - Tory ministers named in critical BSE report

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Tuesday 3 October 2000

A list of Tory ministers and their advisers who have been criticised by the BSE inquiry was given to the Government yesterday , along with the rest of the 16-volume report into the scandal of "mad cow" disease.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the inquiry's chairman, handed the report to the Government after an exhaustive 30-month investigation into the events surrounding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD).

All those reproached in the report have been warned about potential criticisms, but none of them has been told specifically that their name will be included in the official list of people whose actions are deemed to have been erroneous, inappropriate or inadequate .

An inquiry spokeswoman said the criticisms would not be for trivial matters but would focus on decisions that had an important impact on the way the BSE story unfolded.

The inquiry was allowed to base its criticisms only on knowledge that was available at the time a decision was made, and it has been allowed the benefit of hindsight to explain the circumstances of BSE's emergence as a reality and a threat to human health.

Former Conservative agriculture ministers are expected to be in the main line of fire in the report, which coversthe period from the mid-Eighties - when BSE was first identified - to 20 March 1996, when the Tory government admitted for the first time that therewas a link between BSE and v-CJD.

John MacGregor , the Minister of Agriculture between 1987 and 1989, was ultimately responsible for the decision not to pay farmers full compensation for BSE-infected cattle - a decision that is thought to have led to infected animals being sold for human consumption until full compensation was offered in 1990.

Mr MacGregor's successor, John Gummer , an enthusiastic promoter of beef , is also expected to be criticised for not accepting the possible health risks of BSE. Mr Gummer notoriously fed a beefburger to his daughter , Cordelia, to demonstrate that beef was safe even for children's consumption.

Officials responsible for enforcing measures to protect the human food chain from BSE are also likely to be criticised. Five years after bovine offal was banned, it was being found on dressed carcasses destined for butchers' shops .

During 138 days of hearing evidence, the inquiry interviewed 630 witnesses and took more than 1,200 written statements, including some from senior officials such as Sir Donald Acheson, Chief Medical Officer between 1983 and 1991, who said in May 1990 that it was safe for people to eat beef.

Tensions that arose between the Department of Health (DoH) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) are likely to come under critical scrutiny in the report. Health officials claimed that Maff often kept them in the dark about BSE and played down the importance of ensuring that slaughterhouses followed rules on keeping bovine offal out of the human food chain.

The inquiry was also told that officials from the DoH were wary of a ban on specified bovine offal (SBO) in case it sparked a health scare about pharmaceutical products and vaccines made from bovine serum . It was told that the ban on SBO was eventually prompted by the pet food industry, which wanted to protect cats and dogs from BSE .

02 Oct 00 - CJD - Fifth death linked to CJD


Press Association ... Monday 2 October 2000

A fifth person is believed to have died from new variant CJD - the human equivalent of BSE - in the area where the Government is investigating into a cluster of cases.

The victim died on Thursday evening at his home in Leicestershire, close to the village of Queniborough .

Four other people who had connections with the village have died from the disease, their deaths prompting the Government to investigate possible links.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "I can confirm that a man died peacefully at his home on Thursday evening. New variant CJD is suspected, but that will depend on the results of the post-mortem examination.

"I can confirm he came from the same areas as the others."

An investigation is under way involving experts from the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the public health laboratory service as well as the local health authority and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Health.

On Monday the Department of Health will publish new national figures for the number of people who have died from vCJD.

02 Oct 00 - CJD - Long-awaited BSE crisis report delivered to government


Press Association ... Monday 2 October 2000

The long-awaited report into the BSE crisis, one of the largest inquiries ever conducted in the UK, has been handed over to the Government.

Inquiry chairman, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, delivered the 16-volume report to agriculture minister Nick Brown and health secretary Alan Milburn, outside the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food offices in central London.

Lord Phillips, who led the three-man inquiry set up in January 1998, said the job had been "a big task for everyone involved".

As he delivered the report, he also thanked the bereaved relatives of variant CJD sufferers, many of whom attended the handover, for their patience and support.

"It is a lengthy document," said Lord Phillips as two large blue boxes, containing the report, were delivered. "All the evidence has kept the inquiry team at nearly full stretch for almost three years."

Mr Brown said his department would carefully consider the report's extensive findings but would not comment further on the matter.

"The report is in the public domain and everyone will have an opportunity to look at it," he said.

The 27 million public inquiry was set up to investigate how and why the crisis was allowed to develop , until scientists identified a link between CJD and the human food chain in March 1996.

The report is the product of more than 138 days' testimony, including written evidence from more than 630 witnesses and oral evidence from more than 333 witnesses.

The Department of Health and MAFF have released a joint statement saying the Government is aiming to publish the report on October 26 .

02 Oct 00 - CJD - vCJD victim's parents saw son dying in front of her eyes


Press Association ... Monday 2 October 2000

The heartbroken parents of the 24-year-old man who became the latest victim in a cluster of deaths from vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, have spoken about their loss.

Christopher Reeve is the fourth person with links to the Leicestershire village of Queniborough, and the fifth from the county, who has died from the illness. The former farmhand, who worked in Queniborough and lived in nearby Rearsby, died at his home last Thursday.

His parents, Tony and Linda Reeve, who live in Mount Sorrel, six miles from Queniborough, earlier spoke to Central News. Mrs Reeve said: "What he got was something dreadful . I saw him dying in front of my eyes... He was like a gentle giant."

She added: "The pain he had to go through, he couldn't cope with it. Over the months he resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die, but he didn't want to die. It was awful for him."

So far there have been about 75 deaths nationwide from new variant CJD.

02 Oct 00 - CJD - Fifth death linked to CJD village

By Nicole Martin

Telegraph ... Monday 2 October 2000

A fifth person is believed to have died of new variant CJD in an area under investigation over its high incidence of the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Christopher Reeve, 24, a farm worker who died on Thursday after months of illness, lived in Rearsby, Leics, but worked in Queniborough . The village, north of Leicester, became the focus of a Government inquiry after three people with connections to the area died within 12 weeks in 1998. A fourth man aged 19 died in May at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

A Department of Health spokesman said that a post mortem examination would confirm whether Mr Reeve's death was linked with vCJD. His parents, Linda and Tony, said in his death notice yesterday that they were "heartbroken".

The inquiry into the cluster of deaths is being conducted by a team from the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh and the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre.

Dr Philip Monk, a Leicestershire consultant in communicable diseases, said yesterday that he was confident that "the source of the exposure to this disease is not ongoing". He said: "The cluster is linked by time and place but whether it's Queniborough itself we don't yet know. One of the things we will look at is the food supply."

In July schoolchildren in the village took home questionnaires about their parents' food shopping habits. They were asked where they bought milk, chicken and beef over the past 20 years. The Leicestershire cluster was first reported two years ago when three people died.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee said in July that there were 69 confirmed cases of vCJD in Britain. New figures will be published today.

02 Oct 00 - CJD - Ex-ministers in firing line as BSE report is delivered

James Meikle

Guardian ... Monday 2 October 2000

The 16 -volume independent report on the BSE catastrophe, which is expected to criticise former Conservative ministers and civil servants for their handling of the crisis, is to be handed to the agriculture minister, Nick Brown, today as the death toll mounts from the human form of the disease.

Christopher Reeve, 24, is the fourth victim with links to the Leicestershire village of Queniborough . His death is the 20th in Britain so far this year and the 75th since May 1995. Two people have died in France and one in Ireland , and at least seven other Britons are thought to have the fatal condition.

A government investigation is under way into the cluster of deaths in Leicestershire in the past three years. A victim who died in Leicester royal infirmary in May is not thought to have links to Queniborough, where Mr Reeve worked on a farm until he developed obvious symptoms less than a year ago.

Philip Munk, consultant in communicable diseases at Leicestershire health authority, said: "It is a tragedy for the family, and our thoughts are with them. I have spoken to some of the villagers in Queniborough, and the death has not had a huge impact on them as they knew this person was terminally ill."

The BSE inquiry report, compiled by a team headed by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, is expected to criticise a series of delays in introducing measures to combat the risk to human health from BSE, the cattle disease identified in 1986.

Its human form, vCJD, is thought to have been caused by exposure to infected beef, although the inquiry has also been disturbed by the way the government of the day handled the possible threat from vaccines using bovine material .

John MacGregor , agriculture minister from 1987 to 1989, faced tough questioning on why the government did not introduce more quickly a slaughter and compensation scheme for diseased cattle or ban cannibalistic feeding, whereby cows ate the remains of other cattle. But he is likely to be praised for banning offals from food in 1989, when most advisers did not think there was the evidence to do so.

John Gummer , his successor at agriculture, is expected to be criticised for the publicity stunt in which he fed his daughter, Cordelia, a burger. Lord Phillips was also concerned that he did not appear to take the risk to human health seriously enough, a charge Mr Gummer denied. He told the inquiry that the "almost universal" advice was that the risk was "so remote as for all practical reasons to be ignored".

Douglas Hogg , agriculture minister by the time the prob able BSE link to early deaths from vCJD was established in March 1996, told the inquiry, he had read the riot act to industry for failing to observe anti-BSE measures and was overruled by cabinet when he tried to introduce a far stronger package of extra health measures. Many of these were soon introduced under pressure from the EU.

Several former ministers were irritated by the inquiry , which lasted two-and-a-half years, took oral evidence from 333 witnesses and written evidence from another 300, and cost about 27m.

Kenneth Clarke , health secretary from 1988 to 1990, told the inquiry counsel, Paul Walker: "I am not convinced from the questioning that you have the faintest idea of how decision-making goes on in government... There is an awful lot you do not have documents about, and you have too many documents."

Lord Phillips was concerned about whether the government took sufficient action, given the degree of uncertainty about the nature of BSE and similar diseases.

Policy in relation to BSE, he said to Mr Gummer, "was based on the fact there was not firm scientific evidence that enabled one to evaluate how unlikely a particular hazard is to exist when you are deciding what the precautions are to take... To say there is no scientific evidence to justify taking another precaution is perhaps not the right test. The test is: has the uncertainty become more acute?"

An inquiry spokeswoman said people would be criticised. But the report was "not a charge sheet", and the benchmark was "whether what someone did was within a range of reasonable responses, given the position the person held at the time and what they knew at the time".

02 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE report 'to criticise Tory ministers'

Staff Reporter

BBC ... Monday 2 October 2000

A report into the BSE crisis which is expected to criticise former Tory ministers has been handed in to the government.

Lord Phillips, a senior judge and chairman of the long-awaited official inquiry into BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) - or mad cow Disease - gave the report to ministers on Monday.

The commitee's findings will not be made public for three weeks.

But former members of the Conservative government are expected to be criticised for allowing the disease to spread.

'Definitive report'

The 16-volume report, which has taken two years to compile and is based on evidence of more than 1,000 people, is the widest and most definitive report into BSE ever undertaken.

Explanations about how the disease started and why it then spread from cattle to humans are also expected to be contained in the report.

It is set to point to unnecessary secrecy and rivalry among government departments in the previous Tory administration, which meant the health risks were not published for months and, in some cases, years after they were known.

It is also expected to blame a lack of action for the continuing spread of the disease when measures could have been put in place earlier to help stop BSE passing from cattle to humans.

'Long wait'

The National Health Service will also be criticised for the treatment it gave to early victims of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD), the human form of BSE.

Sandra Galloway, of the CJD supporter group, told the BBC victims' families hoped the report would give them some answers.

She said: "Three weeks will be a long time for families who have been waiting for this report.

"The families want someone to blame but I don't think the report will point the finger at one person."

Latest death

On Thursday a fifth person died of suspected new variant CJD - the human form of BSE - in a small area of Leicestershire.

He is believed to have been a farm worker with links to the village of Queniborough , just north of Leicester.

The Leicestershire CJD "cluster" was first reported in November 1998, after it claimed three lives within 12 weeks in 1998.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, the official body monitoring the progress of the disease, said in July there were 69 known victims of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) in the UK.

The disease can only be identified with absolute certainty after death.

"The number of cases reported now indicates a statistically significant rising trend of around 20-30% per annum to date," the spokesman said.

02 Oct 00 - CJD - Farm worker is fourth victim in CJD 'death valley'

By Andrew Buncombe

Independent ... Monday 2 October 2000

A young farm worker has become the fourth person with close links to the same Leicestershire village to die from new variant CJD - the human form of mad cow disease.

It was revealed yesterday that Christopher Reeve, 24, died last Thursday after suffering from vCJD for at least a year. He is the fourth victim from the village of Queniborough , in the Wreake Valley, where the Government has launched an investigation.

The news comes as the independent inquiry set up to examine BSE and CJD will today pass its report to ministers. The 16m inquiry - which has taken two-and-a-half years to complete - has looked at the causes of the disease and the adequacy or otherwise of the official response.

Mr Reeve, the youngest of six children, lived in the neighbouring village of Rearsby but worked in Queniborough.

His parents, Tony and Linda, placed a notice in a local newspaper which said: "Christopher has passed away peacefully after as much pain as anybody could cope with.

"We watched over him for months and watched him suffer but in all the times he never complained. He would laugh and joke and smiled at us right to the end.

"We keep asking 'Why him?' He was gentle, kind and never hurt anyone. We held him inour arms and we wished we could make him better but it wasn't to be."

A Queniborough resident, who asked not to be named, said: "This area is being called 'death valley ' and fear is hanging over everyone.

"You just wonder who is going to be next .

"It's an invisible disease and you don't know who else has contracted it or what the source could be."

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable diseases at Leicestershire health authority, said yesterday: "Sadly the death was expected. It is a tragedy for the family and our thoughts are with them."

Officials say vCJD has claimed the lives of 74 known victims, while another eight are suffering from it.

The cluster in Queniborough is being investigated by experts from the CJD surveillance unit, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the public health laboratory service as well as the local health authority and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Health. Results of the investigation are due in November.

Dr Monk added: "The cluster is linked by time and place but whether it's Queniborough itself we don't yet know. Certainly one of the things we will look at is the food supply ."

The government inquiry has taken evidence from more than 800 witnesses including experts, politicians and relatives of victims.

Yesterday Frances Hall of the support group, the Human BSE Foundation, said: "It's going to be a red-letter day for us to see this report handed over. We had to fight very hard.