Document Directory

31 Mar 98 - Water supplies 'face BSE threat'
24 Mar 98 -'Vital' BSE research still not carried out
24 mar 98 - Senior scientists dismiss fears of CJD epidemic
24 Mar 98 - Government 'misled scientists on BSE'
20 mar 98 - CJD experts were ignored by Whitehall
20 mar 98 - BSE scientist 'fobbed off' by officials
18 Mar 98 - Farmers bury BSE cattle to avoid notice, inquiry told
18 Mar 98 - Scientist accuses cattle farmers of BSE cover-up
18 Mar 98 - Farmers are burying mad cows to hide scale of BSE
17 Mar 98 - Ministry secrecy led to an extra 250,000 cattle catching BSE
16 Mar 98 - Beef exports on menu for Easter
13 Mar 98 - French back move to lift EU beef ban
12 Mar 98 - Inquiry: Working Party chairman warned on spending
12 Mar 98 - Ministry warned scientists against 'costly' measures for BSE
12 Mar 98 - Scientist was horrified by inaction over BSE
11 Mar 98 - BSE team's horror find
11 Mar 98 - CJD destroyed my daughter, father tells inquiry
11 Mar 98 - Vet's reference to scrapie was cut from speech
11 Mar 98 - 'I eat beef but I'm not sure it's safe'
11 Mar 98 - Father tells of CJD daughter's living hell
11 Mar 98 - Ministry 'amended report' on early BSE case
10 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry under way with pledge of extra time
10 Mar 98 - How my beautiful daughter was destroyed by mad cow disease
10 Mar 98 - Blair agrees to extend deadline for BSE inquiry
10 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry calls for extra time as evidence mounts
09 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry will break new ground
09 Mar 98 - Victims' families plead for justice in BSE inquiry
09 Mar 98 - Families seek an end to CJD torment
07 Mar 98 - Canadian Alert on BSE
05 Mar 98 - Euro vets vote to ease beef ban
05 Mar 98 - Exports: Ban could be eased in months
05 Mar 98 - EU vote may spell end of beef ban
05 Mar 98 - Beef hopes rise as Europe lets in Ulster exports
04 Mar 98 - Beef farmers need more aid, say MPs
04 Mar 98 - Our mad cow was a Swiss import, claim worried Germans
03 Mar 98 - MPs call for BSE funding review
01 Mar 98 - Patients offered own blood to cut infection



31 Mar 98 - Water supplies 'face BSE threat'

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... 24 March 1998


Not enough is being done to protect people from the risk of drinking water contaminated with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy agent , the BSE inquiry in London was told yesterday.

Sludge and liquid effluent spread on the land from rendering plants, which process animal remains into tallow and meat and bone meal, could carry infection , an expert said. Dr Alan Colchester, a consultant neurologist at Guy's Hospital, London, said his interest was aroused when he cared for a victim of the new variant CJD, the fatal human brain disease which has been linked to BSE, among a small "cluster" of victims in Kent. He now has several other young patients from east Kent "with dementia in whom CJD has been considered". Dr Colchester said in evidence: "There is no doubt that water-based effluent could in principle contain BSE infectivity." He criticised Government agencies for playing down the risks.

He said that he had given evidence last year at a public inquiry into an application by Canterbury Mills to discharge liquid effluent from its rendering plant at Thruxted Mill, near Canterbury, into a network of drains, instead of dumping 100,000 litres a day on to the land. The Government has still not announced a decision. He supported local residents who opposed the change because of the risk of contaminating underground water courses or aquifers.

Rendering plants that processed animal waste were thought to have been the chief mechanism for the spread of BSE, he said. His research showed it was possible for rendering processes to fail to make safe the infected material. Dr Colchester said that he did not feel satisfied that the new system would avoid the theoretical risks to employees or passers-by of surface contact with infectivity in the effluent. He said: "Exposure could occur at the site of discharges outside a factory, for example through surface water or soil, through sludge or effluent spread on farmland, and anywhere to which products are exported.

"Much publicity has also been given to the possibility of water supply contamination. More effort appears to have been expended by the regulatory bodies in attempting to deny this than in improving regulations and their enforcement."

He also argued that BSE could have been spread among cattle in the early days of the disease by farmers injecting infected animal hormones into their beasts.

Fresh cases of BSE in cattle fell to 2,585 cases during the last six months of 1997 - a drop of 36 per cent from the same period in 1996 - according to figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday.


24 Mar 98 -'Vital' BSE research still not carried out

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 24 March 1998


Vital research to establish how the agent blamed for fatal brain disease in cattle and people crosses the species barrier has not been carried out, the BSE inquiry was told in London yesterday.

There is no scientific evidence to show whether BSE in cattle has spread to sheep and whether this would be a public health risk, it was told.

BSE is believed to have been caused when cattle were fed rations containing the processed remains of sheep infected with a similar killer brain disease, scrapie. While BSE has been linked to the deaths of 23 young people from a new variant of CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, scrapie has never been associated with illness in humans.

The inquiry will hear evidence on Monday that experience with scrapie, which has been known since the 18th Century, lulled Government scientists into a false sense of security. Some scientists now believe that BSE is not linked to scrapie but is a cattle disease.

Sheep are subject to less strict health and hygiene controls in the wake of BSE, even though some experts believe that the little-understood BSE form of the killer brain agent may have passed back into sheep in contaminated food rations. There are fears that this agent, which might be confused with scrapie, could infect people in the same way as BSE.

Prof Jeffrey Almond, a microbiologist at Reading University and chairman of the Biotechnology Sciences Research Council working group, said he felt initially that research proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture to find whether BSE had passed to sheep was "flawed". He had been persuaded by other scientists that the research, involving injecting samples from sheep with scrapie into mice, was worth doing. However, there would now be difficulty in trying to discover whether the BSE agent existed in sheep before 1980 - when BSE first emerged as a health risk - because there were no substantial stocks of sheep brains in store on which to experiment.

He agreed that it might be possible to seek sheep brain samples from the United States, which also has a history of scrapie. Prof Almond told how lack of funds prevented him completing his own research work into the agent's ability to cross the species barrier. He added that his first contact with the field of transmissible encephalopathies - the family of fatal disease to which CJD and BSE belong - was in 1987 when he was asked to take part in a symposium in London staged by the Ciba Foundation. He then established links with a number of research groups.

In a television documentary he presented in 1989, he spoke to then chief veterinary officer about the risks to humans from BSE. Though he was told the risk was "small", Prof Almond was not that confident. "It was clear to me that you could not be totally confident about that... I was not convinced that everything would be all fine."

Prof Almond said that not enough experiments had been done to show how BSE could spread to people.


24 mar 98 - Senior scientists dismiss fears of CJD epidemic

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 24 March 1998


Fears that Britain faces an epidemic of CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, were dismissed yesterday by two leading scientists who said that other researchers had wrongly identified the cause of fatal brain diseases and how they spread.

If their theory is right - that CJD and similar diseases in animals are caused by a type of bacteria which is widespread in water, sewage and the soil - beef is safe and there was no need to cull two million cattle to protect consumers, they told the BSE inquiry in London.

Prof Alan Ebringer, an expert in auto-immune diseases at King's College, London, challenged the accepted mainstream scientific theory that CJD and BSE in cattle are caused by rogue "prion" proteins. His research suggested that BSE was caused instead by acinetobacter - a common microbe in water, sewage and the soil.

He said it was this microbe, not the "prion" agent which was passed on to cattle in inadequately processed animal food - possibly in the faeces contained in internal organs rendered as animal protein in "winter food" for livestock. Animal waste containing faeces was known in the trade as "green offals", he said. People could also be infected by this bacteria in the environment. "If we are right, the cattle cull was unnecessary," Prof Ebringer said.

He also dismissed the "new" version of CJD in March 1996 as "not new at all" but something which had been misdiagnosed in the past and only picked up by scientists recently because of increased surveillance of brain diseases. Prof Ebringer and Prof John Pirt, a worldwide authority on the role of bacteria in diseases, said their work had shown that CJD and BSE could be caused in genetically susceptible people and animals when their own bodies produced fierce antibodies which then attacked the invading acinetobacter bacteria - and damaged healthy tissue as well by confusing it with the bacteria. In effect, healthy tissue was destroyed by a heavy burst of "friendly fire" from the body's defence mechanisms. A similar thing occurred in cases of rheumatic fever, they said.

They said mice with deficient immune systems had not contracted BSE in experiments while mice with healthy immune systems had. BSE is believed to have been caused when cattle were fed rations containing processed remains of sheep contaminated with scrapie.

A new variety of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is known to have killed 23 young people, is thought to have arisen when the victims ate contaminated beef or beef products, although this has not been proved.

The previous day Prof John Pattison, chairman of the independent Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee, admitted that there was no scientific proof that scrapie had crossed the species barrier into cattle or that BSE might be a cattle disease in its own right which had lain at undetected levels for many years.

Prof Ebringer and Prof Pirt rejected the prion protein theory championed by the Nobel prizewinner, Prof Stanley Prusiner, of California University, and generally accepted as the most likely cause of scrapie, BSE and CJD. They said that Prof Prusiner's theory - which he will explain to the inquiry in June - was flawed. "The prion theory is not compatible with current concepts of molecular biology and postulates the existence of novel particles which cause neurological damage," they said in their statement to the inquiry. "The auto-immune theory is compatible with the current concept of molecular biology and proposes that BSE or scrapie are produced by a mechanism involving 'molecular mimicry' between common bacteria and nervous tissue."

Dismissing research showing how BSE could be caused by injecting infected brain tissue from cattle into other animals, they said the work was deeply flawed since none of the material used was "pure" BSE prion protein but a mixture including normal brain tissue.

They argued that acinetobacter microbes in normal brain tissue caused similar brain damage to that attributed to the prion protein. By failing to separate the two ingredients, scientists had no way of proving that prion protein was to blame. They said: "It has been known for over 120 years that, if one injects brain tissue into another animal, a neurological disorder develops three to six weeks later and it is known as 'experimental allergic encephalomyelitis'."

Prof Pirt considered that CJD and BSE were in fact experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.


24 Mar 98 - Government 'misled scientists on BSE'

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 24 March 1998


Scientists were misled into endorsing Government assurances in 1990 that beef was safe to eat, the BSE inquiry will be told in London today.

They believed that controls aimed at preventing high-risk cattle material entering the public food chain were firmly in place. Unknown to them, the controls were often ignored. Beef for human consumption and ingredients for animal food were exposed to cross-infection by BSE.

David Tyrrell will tell the inquiry that scientists were influenced by the Government ban on specified bovine offals imposed in June 1989. Dr Tyrrell chaired the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee, the independent team of scientists appointed to advise the Government on BSE and its human counterpart CJD, from 1990 to November 1995.

Under the Government ban a range of offals, including the brain, thymus, tonsils, spinal cord and spleen, which were deemed to carry the highest risk of harbouring the deadly BSE agent, should have been separated at abattoirs. All should have been stained and destroyed to prevent them entering the human food chain.

It was not until 1995 that it dawned on the committee that the controls on offals were not working. Cases of BSE were increasing among cattle born after the 1988 ban on rations containing the processed animal remains that are believed to have caused the disease. Dr Tyrrell will describe an emergency meeting of the advisory committee in May, 1990, to discuss the safety of beef only weeks after the announcement that the first cat, a Siamese called Max, had died from a BSE-like disease.

The meeting was to help Sir Donald Acheson, then the Government's Chief Medical Officer, prepare a statement for an urgent press conference on May 16.

Dr Tyrrell said: "The view was that the present risk, which could not be said to be zero, was not greater than the risks of everyday life, and thus beef could be said to be 'safe'. The assumption was that the offal ban was now in place, though we minuted that it was important to ensure that regulations were implemented so that any cross-contamination of meat with the banned offals was minimised."

In June 1990, the committee recommended precautions when removing the brains from cattle. On July 2, it also urged that it "made sense" to avoid contamination of meat with the spinal cord. On July 24, the committee concluded again that beef could be eaten safely. But it advised later that the eyes of cattle more than six months old should not be used for dissection in schools. On May 10, 1991, the committee noted the first case of BSE in an animal born after the cattle food ban in July 1988.

In June 1995, as cases of CJD, the human form of BSE, were emerging in young people, the committee was becoming increasingly worried about the rising proportion of cattle born after the feed ban that were suffering BSE. While total cases were falling, 40 per cent of the cattle victims had been born after the ban.

Epidemiologists found that cross-contamination could occur in feed-compounding plants. Then, the first report of the newly formed Meat Hygiene Service revealed a range of faults in the processing of meat.

Dr Tyrrell said: "The committee concluded that previous reports had given them a 'falsely reassuring picture'." Tighter controls were then introduced. "We thought it was likely that the problems had been corrected. The final test will be the disappearance of cases born after the ban."


20 mar 98 - CJD experts were ignored by Whitehall

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 20 March 1998


An official report that called nine years ago for the urgent monitoring of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human equivalent of BSE in cattle, was delayed for seven months until the Government sorted out funds for research, scientists said yesterday.

David Tyrrell, former director of the Medical Research Council's Common Cold Unit, who was called in by ministers to head a team of scientists, told of the frustration at the delay by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health in publishing their recommendations.

The Tyrrell Committee met for the first time in February 1989 following a recommendation by an earlier committee headed by Sir Richard Southwood, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, that a specialist group should set out urgent research priorities. Dr Tyrrell said his committee was asked to advise on work in progress or proposed on spongiform encephalopathies - the family of killer brain disease to which BSE in cattle belongs. The team was also asked to advise on additional work needed and to establish priorities for research.

The report urged that it was "essential to set up a study of CJD and similar diseases and to maintain it for as long as necessary". The scientists felt that the CJD investigation should continue for between 10 to 20 years due to the long incubation period of the disease.

They also stressed that it was important to check the assumptions that BSE was caused when cattle were fed rations containing the remains of sheep infected with a similar disease called scrapie. They wanted comparisons made of the behaviour of the agents causing both animal diseases. The report was submitted to both departments in June 1989 but had still not been published by the end of the year. It eventually appeared in January 1990.

In a statement to the BSE inquiry, Dr Tyrrell said: "There had been no precise agreement on how it would be handled after that but we expected it to be published. Members did feel some frustration when it was still not released by the end of the year... We understood later that this was done so that, at the time of publication, it could be announced that all research was being funded. Meantime we had to put up with the inference of colleagues that nothing was being done."

Dr Tyrrell and the four other members of the committee told the inquiry that the relationship between MAFF and the Department of Health worked well within the committee itself.

But one of the committee, Dr Richard Kimberlin, a consultant on BSE-type diseases and former head of the Government's Neuropathogenisis Unit in Edinburgh, told the inquiry that, after the report was completed in June 1989, rivalry sprung up between the Government's funding agencies "about who should get what" .

Further criticisms of Government delays in acting on expert advice will come today from Prof George Lamming who was asked by the Government in 1991 to review the animal feed industry and its implications for human health. In a statement submitted in advance of his appearance, Prof Lamming, Emeritus Professor of Animal Physiology at Nottingham University, tells of a four-year delay in implementing safeguards .


20 mar 98 - BSE scientist 'fobbed off' by officials

Michael Hornsby

Times ... Friday 20 March 1998


The scientist who headed the first advisory committee on "mad cow" disease told colleagues that he felt as if he was taking part in a Yes, Prime Minister plot in his dealings with government departments.

David Tyrrell, director of the Medical Research Council's Common Cold Unit, accused officials of "fobbing him off" when he asked to know when his committee's report, setting out research priorities for combating the epidemic, would be published, the BSE inquiry was told yesterday.

The Tyrrell Committee was set up in February 1989, and submitted its recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health four months later. But the report was not published until January 1990. In a letter marked "in confidence" to Katherine Levy, of the Medical Research Council, in December 1989, Dr Tyrrell stated: "It certainly leaves a bad taste to have been involved in something which would have done well as an outline plot for an episode of Yes Prime Minister." In written evidence, Dr Tyrrell said that there had been "no precise agreement" on how the committee's report would be handled, but that members had expected that it would be be published.

"Members did feel some frustration when it was still not released by the end of the year," he said. "We understood later that this was done so that, at the time of publication, it could be announced that all the research was being funded."

He said his committee had been concerned by the limited numbers of experts in the disciplines necessary for a comprehensive research programme on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and the lack of suitable facilities for large-scale animal experimentation in strict containment.

It was fortunate, he said, that scientists with knowledge of scrapie in sheep, thought to be the source of BSE, were still available at the Neuropathogenesis Unit in Edinburgh. Answering questions from the inquiry panel, headed by Sir Nicholas Phillips, a Court of Appeal judge, Dr Tyrrell defended the value of an experiment carried out by the Central Veterinary Laboratory to test the extent of maternal transmission of BSE from cows to their calves. Other scientists have criticised it as seriously flawed because some of the calves might have eaten contaminated feed, making it impossible to tell for certain whether they had inherited the disease from their BSE-infected mothers.

Dr Tyrrell said that, despite this drawback, the experiment provided a reasonable indication that maternal transmission was occurring at only a relatively low level. Had scientists waited until all stocks of contaminated feed had been removed from circulation, the experiment would have been delayed for several years. If it had been delayed, and maternal transmission had turned out to be happening on a large scale, that would have required a different strategy for controlling the disease.

Completing the selective cull of cattle at risk of developing "mad cow" disease was proving difficult because of inadequate records, Jeff Rooker, the Food Safety Minister, told the Commons. He said 67,000 cattle had been slaughtered so far. Up to another 18,000 would need to be culled, of which 10,000 had so far been traced. The task was "made more difficult by the lack of the computerised cattle tracing system which we are now developing".


18 Mar 98 - Farmers bury BSE cattle to avoid notice, inquiry told

By Amelia Gentleman

Guardian ... Wednesday 18 March 1998


Government figures showing a rapid fall in the instances of BSE-infected cattle could be unreliable because farmers are secretly burying suspect animals on a "massive" scale to avoid reporting them, food scientist Professor Richard Lacey claimed yesterday.

In his evidence to the BSE inquiry, Prof Lacey, the scientist who first warned that the disease could spread to humans, said farmers were so desperate to have their herds declared BSE-free that they were bypassing abattoirs to avoid making an official report of infection.

Instead, they were burying the animals in open graves on their own land. The practice, concentrated in the north of England and Scotland, represented a serious health hazard . It was no coincidence, he said, that these were the areas of Britain which had seen most deaths from the E. coli bug in recent years.

His evidence could undermine the Government's strategy on BSE, which is based on data suggesting the disease is in rapid decline following the introduction of health safety measures.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said it was satisfied that all cases were being reported and it was unaware of any unofficial burials. He added: "We have the right procedures in place to ensure full reporting. Farmers get appropriate compensation for reported cases."

Prof Lacey told the inquiry in south London that he had recently met a delegation of knacker men who said their business was being undercut by the burials and suggested that as many as 1 million cattle a year were being disposed of in this way .

"They told me that because the value of animal carcasses is now negative, the animals are being buried on a massive scale in farm burials. They produced video evidence of this.

"I fully understand the emotions and the pressure the farmers face. There is tremendous pressure to reduce BSE numbers and get accreditation - and I can see why they may choose to dispose of their animals in this way."

Prof Lacey said he did not accept the Government's BSE figures , and told the inquiry that the reported instances of infection were influenced by the fluctuating levels of compensation.

"First there was no compensation, then 50 per cent and 100 per cent and the numbers went up, then the compensation dropped and the numbers reported have dropped," he said.

Passport documentation intended to reveal the exact cause of cows' deaths was being filled in without reference to the suspicions over infection and to the farmyard burial, he claimed. And because the graves were often open, diseases - including E. coli and possibly even BSE - were being spread.

Ian Gardiner, director of policy at the National Farmers' Union, said it would be economic nonsense for farmers to carry out DIY burials.

Prof Lacey warned the inquiry that, far from being eradicated within the next few years, BSE could become endemic in the British cattle population , as scrapie has been among sheep for the last two centuries.

Prof Lacey was highly critical of the former government's handling of the affair and said effective action to wipe out BSE and protect public health was delayed for years because government scientists wanted to reassure the public that beef was safe to eat.

Information was repeatedly suppressed to protect the beef industry and attempts were made by politicians to portray him as deranged to discredit his warnings, he said.


18 Mar 98 - Scientist accuses cattle farmers of BSE cover-up

Michael Hornsby

Times ... Wednesday 18 March 1998


Expert says he cannot accept figures showing fall in disease

Farmers were accused yesterday of killing and burying sick cattle on their farms to avoid having to report them as suspect cases of "mad cow" disease.

Richard Lacey, the Professor of Microbiology at Leeds University, told the public inquiry into BSE that he did not accept government figures showing a sharp decline in the number of infected cattle. Professor Lacey, a longstanding critic of official policy, said government scientists had underestimated the transmission of the disease from cow to calf and had relied too heavily on the hypothesis that contaminated feed was the main source of infection.

He said he expected cases of human BSE, or new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), to rise in the next century, and it was likely that the human infection could also be passed from mothers to offspring. "It seems likely that intraspecies transfer will occur through, for example, blood materials and surgery ," he added.

Professor Lacey was asked about his comment to a Commons Agricultural Select Committee in 1990 that "if our worst fears are realised, we could virtually lose a generation of people". He replied that since then it had been discovered that 30 per cent of people probably had genetic resistance to infection . But he still believed there was "a potential for a substantial proportion of the population to go down with nvCJD".

Professor Lacey said the committee had ignored written evidence in which he had pointed out the possibility that people might not be vulnerable to infection. He suggested that the committee had focused "on what might seem an exaggerated claim" in order to discredit him.

Professor Lacey said he had been told by knackermen and renderers that "because the value of carcasses is now negative, the animals are being buried on a massive scale in farm burials ".

There had been "tremendous pressure " on the farmers to reduce BSE numbers so that they could claim disease-free status for their herds, he said.

The National Farmers' Union dismissed Professor Lacey's claims as absolute rubbish. Ian Gardiner, its policy director, said: "It is very odd to suggest that farmers are burying animals, for which they would get no money, to avoid declaring them as BSE suspects, for which they would be fully compensated."

The NFU said farmers were burying more casualty animals - those that become injured and have to be put down - because knackermen would no longer take these carcasses. This was because the remains could no longer be sold as meat and bonemeal, a consequence of BSE.

There have been about 171,000 cases of BSE reported since the first was diagnosed in 1986. According to government statistics, there has been a sharp decline since 1993, pointing towards the virtual disappearance of the disease early in the next century.

Roy Anderson of Oxford University's zoology department told the inquiry on Monday that the BSE epidemic was likely to have dwindled to only a handful of new cases by 2001. He also said that transmission of the disease from cow to calf was not taking place often enough to prolong the epidemic.

Professor Lacey complained yesterday that Professor Anderson's group of researchers at Oxford had been given privileged access to government data, and said he would like to be able to examine the information for himself.


18 Mar 98 - Farmers are burying mad cows to hide scale of BSE

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 18 March 1998


Professor Richard Lacey, the scientist who claimed in 1990 that mad cow disease could destroy a generation of humans, accused farmers yesterday of hiding the scale of the epidemic .

Instead of reporting all suspected cases, farmers are burying cattle "in big communal graves " to make it look like the epidemic is dying out more quickly, he told the BSE inquiry in London. This also helped beef producers to have their herds certified free of BSE, he said.

Prof Lacey repeated his claim that the disease could account for large numbers of lives in the years ahead. He said it was "disgraceful" and "totally unacceptable" that cattle were being buried on farms - sometimes in shallow graves due to thin soils - and claimed that they could create reservoirs of E coli 0157 - the kind linked to fatal cases of food poisoning.

Epidemiologists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Oxford University have both predicted that control measures taken by the Government will bring BSE close to eradication by 2001. But Prof Lacey, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at Leeds University, challenged official figures apparently showing the rapid decline of BSE in Britain . He said they were unreliable because farmers are burying suspect animals in their own fields. He said at the inquiry: "The figures appear to show a straightforward rise and fall in cases. If only I could believe that... but I can't."

Pressure to escape the European Union beef ban and have their farms declared BSE-free had led farmers to bypass the abattoirs if they believed that their cattle were likely to go down with BSE.

He told reporters that the on-farm burials were most common in the north of England, south-west Scotland and "mountainous areas where soil is not very deep". Burials were in areas where recent E coli outbreaks had occurred.

Prof Lacey said he was approached on Friday by a delegation of knacker men and renderers who said that their industry was being destroyed by the on-farm burials and showed him "video footage" and other evidence of mass burials in open graves on farmland. He said: "It is happening on massive scale, the knacker industry is knackered."

Prof Lacey said farmers did not have much to lose because they only received "£200 an animal" in compensation. They felt it was better just to get rid of the suspect cattle. However, he admitted that he had not visited any alleged farm burial sites.

The Ministry of Agriculture dismissed Prof Lacey's claims and pointed out that it would not pay farmers to dispose of suspect animals. Officials said that farmers currently receive £546 - 100 per cent of the average market value of cows - for animals which are confirmed BSE cases. They receive £682 if the animal proves on post mortem examination to be clear of BSE. "We are satisfied that all cases are being reported. We have the right procedures in place to ensure full reporting. Farmers get appropriate compensation."

Ian Gardiner, director of policy at the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, said Prof Lacey's claims were "absolute rubbish" and that farmers had co-operated fully to help eradicate BSE by reporting all cases. He said: "It seems very odd to suggest that farmers are burying animals for which they would get no money to avoid declaring them as BSE suspects for which they would get money."

Mr Gardiner said that Prof Lacey was confusing BSE cattle with "casualty" animals which suffer from a range of accidents on farms. Before the BSE crisis, knackers would pay farmers for these animals and then collect them to be rendered for meat, bone meal and other products.

But, since meat and bone meal has been banned from animal food - it is believed that BSE was caused when cattle were fed meal contaminated with the sheep brain disease, scrapie - and from fertiliser, the animals have little value. Mr Gardiner said: "This just shows that Prof Lacey has not understood the economics involved."

Earlier, Prof Lacey admitted that he had deliberately used a worst-case scenario in making predictions about the possible impact of BSE on humans in 1990.

This led him to make his much-quoted statement to the Commons Select Committee for Agriculture in June, 1990, that "if our worst fears are realised, we could virtually lose a generation" as a result of BSE. He accused the Commons Select Committee for Agriculture, which investigated the BSE outbreak in 1990, for discrediting him by highlighting this phrase but ignoring his written evidence that people might not be affected.

He attacked the Ministry of Agriculture for not listening to his views or seeking his help during the epidemic and challenged the ministry theory that BSE was caused when the scrapie agent from sheep was passed to cattle. The nature of the epidemic suggested, he said, that maternal and horizontal transmission among cattle were also largely to blame. But he said he had not been able to gain access to ministry data to check this.

The inquiry was adjourned until tomorrow.


17 Mar 98 - Ministry secrecy led to an extra 250,000 cattle catching BSE

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 17 March 1998


A "culture of secrecy " within the Ministry of Agriculture prevented independent experts from helping to end the mad cow disease epidemic and protect consumers , the BSE inquiry in London was told yesterday.

Prof Roy Anderson, one of Britain's leading epidemiologists, told how 250,000 cattle were infected needlessly because he and his team were denied access to information which would have corrected flaws in the ministry's efforts to curb the disease.

The scientific community felt at the end of the Eighties that getting information about BSE and CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, from the ministry was "like getting blood out of a stone ", he said.

Failure by MAFF's Central Veterinary Laboratory to use "appropriate scientific methods " to draw up realistic calculations of the number of cattle that actually contracted BSE had led its experts to underestimate the true scale of the crisis.

Prof Anderson, head of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, said if these methods had been used in 1989-91, MAFF would have spotted that the nationwide ban on feeding meat and bone meal to cattle - the suspected cause of the disease - was not operating effectively since it was introduced in 1988.

He believed that nearly one million cattle had been infected with BSE by August 1996 - but many of them had been slaughtered for meat before they showed clinical signs of the disease. He thought that about 410,000 were infected after the feed ban. So far, about 180,000 cattle infected with BSE have been detected and destroyed to remove them from the food chain.

Prof Anderson said: "Civil servants within MAFF seemed very reluctant to seek our help or advice in the design of culling policies to further speed the decay of the epidemic or the conduct of risk analysis in the context of human health."

He catalogued a list of failures since 1989 to gain access to the MAFF database because some data was considered confidential. In 1996, he said, after the beef crisis broke, he gained access to the database only after approaches to Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientist, Dame Bridget Ogilvie, director of the Wellcome Trust, and Sir Aaron Klug, president of the Royal Society.

As a result he had a private meeting with Tim Boswell, then a junior MAFF minister in the Conservative government, and "things moved quickly". Visits were arranged to the Government's Central Veterinary Laboratory. But in 1997 it was still "a struggle" to gain information from MAFF which seemed reluctant to seek independent advice on a range of issues, including the safety of beef on the bone. He criticised the Data Protection Act and its interpretation for hindering his work.

Even now, he said, he and his team had still not been given access to details of individual farms and herd sizes to help them calculate the scale of the epidemic, the incidence of maternal transmission and possible risks to cattle and people.

Prof Anderson called for a new "culture of openness " in Government science and said there should be a new system which would allow independent experts to step in whenever the Government did not have that expertise available within its own ranks.


16 Mar 98 - Beef exports on menu for Easter

by David Shaw

Evening Standard ... Monday 16 March 1998


British beef exports were today set to resume by Easter after intense Government pressure on France to swing its support behind a relaxation of the EU's ban.

A majority of the 15 agriculture ministers were expected to support a scheme to allow exports to resume initially only from Ulster herds which have been BSE-free for at least eight years, opening a door which has been firmly shut for over two years.

Shadow agriculture spokesman Michael Jack called on the Government to use Britain's presidency of the EU to secure a timetable for the total lifting of the UK beef export ban. He said: "The lifting of the ban in Northern Ireland will mean nothing to farmers in the rest of Britain unless it offers a future timetable for a total lifting."

Britain failed to secure enough backing earlier this month at a meeting of EU vets when France abstained.

Since then there has been strong behind-the-scenes pressure to win Paris over. A deal would cover herds whose health records are on computer.


13 Mar 98 - French back move to lift EU beef ban

by Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 13 March 1998


Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, has reached a deal with the French which ministers believe will give them the breakthrough Britain has been fighting for two years to achieve with the lifting of the European export ban on British beef.

The Government is confident that it can win a vote to start lifting the export ban on beef from Northern Ireland, which is covered by a traceability scheme, at a two-day meeting next week of European agriculture ministers in Brussels following a round of jet diplomacy by Mr Cunningham. Officials said yesterday it could mean that Ulster beef could go on sale for export "within a few weeks".

Tony Blair regards the victory as so important for his government that the agenda is being arranged by the British presidency of the European Union to make sure the breakthrough can be announced on Monday to avoid it being overshadowed by the Budget 24 hours later.

The French abstained when the European veterinary committee voted by 10 to 4 to recommend the lifting of the ban, but Mr Cunningham secured the support of the French to back Britain at a meeting in Paris with the French agriculture minister, Louie Le Pensec.

The Germans are still holding out, with Spain, Luxemburg and Belgium, but Mr Cunningham is said to have told the Spanish agriculture minister at a meeting this week that he had enough votes lined up to secure victory.

A ministerial source said: "Jack has done a deal with the French, and he has got it in the bag now. There is always the chance of a slip, but it looks like we will win.

"It will show that a pro-European Labour government can do what a Euro-septic Tory government failed to achieve."

The Ulster traceability scheme was introduced to stop fraudulent cross-border trading in cattle. It has enabled the authorities to tag and trace every cow and calf in Northern Ireland, and to provide proof that BSE is not present in the herd.

Ministers are pressing ahead with a certified herd scheme for the rest of Britain to put all cattle on a computer base as big as the car registry at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

Next Tuesday Jeff Rooker, the minister of state for agriculture, will visit the computer system in Workington, Cumbria, which will trace millions of cattle, when it is fully operational in September.

A Whitehall source said: "You can never guarantee these things, especially where Europe is concerned, but it is pretty unlikely the ministers will overturn the recommendations of the vets."


12 Mar 98 - Inquiry: Working Party chairman warned on spending

By Maggie Urry

Financial Times ... Thursday 12 March 1998


Professor Sir Richard Southwood, chairman of a working party which examined bovine spongiform encephalopathy yesterday claimed he had been warned not to recommend measures which would cost taxpayers money .

Sir Richard told the BSE inquiry, which began public hearings this week, that before the group began work in 1988, Derek (now Sir Derek) Andrews, then permanent secretary at the agriculture ministry, said he hoped "any recommendations we would make 'would not lead to an increase in public expenditure' ."

Sir Derek has challenged Sir Richard's evidence in a letter to the inquiry, part of which was read out by Paul Walker, counsel to the inquiry. In the letter Sir Derek said: "There is nothing in the record of that meeting which would bear this interpretation."

According to a minute of the meeting, Sir Derek told Sir Richard that "compulsory slaughter might well lock us into a very large public expenditure commitment ". He said Sir Richard "should not put ministers in a box as to the policy line they should take ".

Since March 1996, when the government revealed a possible link between BSE and a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal human brain condition, more than 2m cattle have been slaughtered and £4bn of public expenditure has been committed to countering BSE .

The report published by Sir Richard's working party in 1989 concluded that the risk to human health from BSE was remote. It was the basis for government policy on BSE until March 1996.

Sir Richard said yesterday that he realised at the time the group's recommendations would cost "tens of millions of pounds" and he wondered if he would later be pilloried for wasting public money.

Even so, the working party had been "privately concerned" that insufficient funds were being made available. It wanted farmers to receive full compensation for cattle infected with BSE, but was told only 50 per cent of market value would be paid.

William Martin, a veterinary expert on the working party also giving evidence, said that was "a loophole" as farmers could get more money by sending animals to market and would go into the food chain.

Sir Richard also recounted how the working party had been "horrified " to discover that cattle with symptoms of BSE were going into the human food chain , apart from the heads. "We felt it was our job to stop that happening immediately," he said.

Sir Richard said that the report tried to strike a balance between raising legitimate concerns without alarming people unnecessarily.

Members of the working party expressed concern that regulations implementing their recommendations had not been diligently enforced .


12 Mar 98 - Ministry warned scientists against 'costly' measures for BSE

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 12 March 1998


The scientist who headed the first independent investigation into mad cow disease and its possible dangers for people nearly 10 years ago claimed yesterday that a senior civil servant tried to persuade him not to recommend expensive measures to deal with the problem.

Sir Richard Southwood, Professor of Zoology and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, said that Sir Derek Andrews, then permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed the hope that any recommendations "would not lead to an increase in public expenditure ".

Sir Richard told the third day of the BSE inquiry in London: "I responded to the effect that we would recommend what we felt was needed and that it was up to MAFF how they achieved it. My memory is that he accepted that." But in July 1988, three months after Sir Richard was invited by Sir Donald Acheson, then Chief Medical Officer, to head a committee of inquiry, the Government settled on paying only 50 per cent of the value for individual BSE cattle slaughtered and destroyed.

The inquiry was told how cutbacks in Government spending had hindered efforts to begin an urgent scientific investigation and restricted compensation paid to farmers to encourage them to surrender suspect cattle. There were fears, said Sir Richard, that farmers would not report suspect cattle but try to sell them on the market instead. The ministry has always claimed that there is no evidence of "under-reporting" of BSE cases because of the low compensation.

There was disagreement at the time over whether BSE cases were still rising. Sir Richard claimed that John Wilesmith, the ministry's leading veterinary epidemiologist, challenged his estimate of the extent of the BSE epidemic and that he and his team had gone along with Mr Wilesmith's lower estimate since he was an expert. He said: "It is tempting to speculate that if we had given a higher estimate, the costs of compensation would then have been so considerable that only partial compensation would have been offered and the risks consequently increased."

It was not until February 1990 - about five years after MAFF pathologists had identified BSE as a new, fatal brain disease - that the Government raised compensation to 100 per cent. Sir Richard said that the ministry had indicated that 50 per cent compensation was an effective measure but added: "Privately, we remained concerned. "

In a letter to the committee, Sir Derek, who retired as permanent secretary at the MAFF in February 1993, said he did not recall the precise words he used nearly 10 years ago but claimed that there was "nothing in the record" to substantiate Sir Richard's interpretation.

Sir Richard said that his committee had then tried to strike a balance between cost and practicality. Treating the entire UK cattle herd as suspect and taking action against it would have had "profound" implications but his committee still put forward proposals to protect the public costing tens of millions of pounds.He said: "We wanted to eliminate all the risks we possibly could." Sir Richard described how he received a telephone call at home in April 1988 from the Chief Medical Officer inviting him to head the investigation. He dismissed criticisms that he and his team were not proper experts in the BSE family of diseases. He described the "professional turmoil" in Government scientific establishments at the time, a result of financial cutbacks, and in the Neuropathogenisis Unit in Edinburgh, which had knowledge of CJD and scrapie but was faced with closure. He said: "I thought it was going to be a difficult job but it turned out worse than I expected ."

There were only "three or four" available people looking at this family of diseases in this country. For others, the team would have had to turn to the United States. His team recommended a range of actions - including experiments to test whether meal laced with the sheep disease scrapie did cause BSE if it was fed to cattle. "To my knowledge this has never been done, so we still cannot be sure of the origin of BSE," he said. The inquiry, which was adjourned until next Monday, was told that this experiment was now being set up.


12 Mar 98 - Scientist was horrified by inaction over BSE

by Michael Hornsby, Agriculture Correspondent

Times ... Thursday 12 March 1998


the scientist first appointed by the Government to investigate "mad cow" disease said yesterday that he had been horrified to discover how little had been done to protect the public from possible infection .

Sir Richard Southwood, Professor of Zoology at Oxford University, also said that he had been concerned that the Ministry of Agriculture would be reluctant to take the necessary precautions because they might cost too much .

Appearing before the public inquiry into BSE, Sir Richard recalled that one day in April 1988, he had heard of BSE for the first time when he had been rung up Sir Donald Acheson, then the Chief Medical Officer. Sir Donald had told him: "I will tell you in great confidence that there is a potentially dangerous disease and I want you to be chairman of a committee to investigate." In February of the following year, his group produced the first official report on BSE, about which little was then known.

Sir Richard, accompanied by three members of his group, told the inquiry they had been concerned about the paucity of research funding and the inadequacy of compensation to farmers with BSE-infected cows. The group had first met in Oxford on June 20, 1988, and had learnt from a Ministry of Agriculture epidemiologist that only the heads of cattle showing symptoms of BSE were being removed and that the rest of the carcass was still being used for human food .

"It is fair to say we were all horrified," Sir Richard said. "We considered it was essential that arrangements were put in hand immediately to prevent any part of an animal suspected of having BSE entering the food chain."

As a result of the working party's alarm, the compulsory slaughter and destruction of all cattle showing any signs of BSE was introduced in August 1988, nearly two years after government veterinary scientists had first confirmed the existence of BSE .

Sir Richard told the inquiry that Sir Derek Andrews, then the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, had "expressed the hope to me that any recommendations we would make 'would not lead to an increase in public expenditure ' ".

This is disputed by Sir Derek, but a copy of the minutes of the meeting, cited yesterday at the inquiry, appeared to show that worries about cost had been one of the main reasons why the Government had not introduced a compulsory slaughter policy sooner. The minutes report Sir Derek as expressing concern that "compulsory slaughter might well lock us into a very large public expenditure commitment, particularly if there was no prospect of eradication, because the current legislation required us to compensate".

Sir Richard said the group was worried that the Government was prepared initially to pay farmers compensation equal only to 50 per cent of market value for suspected BSE cattle that had to be slaughtered. William Martin, director of the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh from 1977 to 1985, a member of the group, said it was feared this had led many farmers to send sick cattle to market to get the full value.


11 Mar 98 - BSE team's horror find

By Charles Arthur, Science Editor

Independent ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


An independent team investigating "mad cow disease" was "horrified " to discover in 1988 that the Ministry of Agriculture was allowing blatantly diseased animals to be used to make human and animal food , they said yesterday.

Professor Sir Richard Southwood, who chaired the four-man working party which was the first to examine the risks posed to human by "mad cow disease" or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), said that he recalled being told cows showing signs of the illness had their heads cut off with a chain saw once they reached an abattoir.

But it was not this detail which shocked them, he said: "We were mostly horrified that the rest of the animal was going into the food chain," he told the BSE Inquiry in London on the third day of public hearings. Just over two weeks later, new regulations forced the complete destruction of diseased animals. But the four men who had first drew up recommendations aimed at curbing the BSE epidemic in cattle said they were constantly thwarted by a cost-cutting climate in which science funding was being cut back, and civil servants were apprehensive about the cost of implementing safety measures.

They also criticised the failure of the government and local authorities to police their preventative measures - such as banning meat and bone meal from being fed to cattle - which could have shortened the span of the epidemic.

Sir Richard said: "It seems that the ban was not really effective until 1993 , thereby extending the epidemic by nearly five years ."

They also found scientific experts in disarray , with centres of expertise being shut down so that there were only a limited number of independent experts outside government who could provide advice.

Sir Richard recalled that in assessing the risk posed to humans, "We knew that MAFF were anxious and had a marked tendency to be 'optimistic'."

However, the four members of the committee said yesterday that even with hindsight, they would not change their broad recommendations. But other members - significantly, Sir Richard - disagreed: "I wouldn't ban beef on the bone," he said later. "I would inform people about the relative risks."


11 Mar 98 - CJD destroyed my daughter, father tells inquiry

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


The father of Clare Tomkins, who is dying from the human form of mad cow disease, said yesterday that his daughter had been destroyed by the illness.

Roger Tomkins gave a harrowing description of the 18 months of "hell" endured by his 24-year-old daughter since the disease took hold in 1996. His account reduced officials and members of the public to tears on the second day of the BSE inquiry in London.

Mr Tomkins, managing director of an engineering company from Tonbridge, Kent, said that Clare had become a vegetarian in 1985 because she loved animals. He blamed the food system for reducing his daughter to an emaciated wreck who cowered in fear from her own family, cried constantly and "howled like a sick, injured animal" .

He said: "She looked at you as though you were the devil incarnate. Her eyes filled with fear." For many months doctors treated her as a psychiatric case because they did not recognise the symptoms of Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease.

The inquiry is investigating the origins of BSE and its connections with a new variant of CJD, which has killed 23 people. Mr Tomkins said that the Government measures to protect public health had "not worked for Clare". He said that, as a layman, he did not know the technical route taken by the disease. He asked: "Why did it happen to my daughter? I ask that question every day. I believe there was an element of risk-taking and my daughter and other cases are the result of that risk. It is maybe a minimal risk but it has happened. The results are terrible. She has lived a hell for 18 months now. No, the system has not worked for her."

Mr Tomkins said that before Clare became a vegetarian in 1985 she ate all meats including burgers and hot-dogs. She was happy, engaged to be married and had everything to live for. She enjoyed working in the pet section of a local garden centre.

Then, in October 1996, after Clare returned from a week's holiday in Norfolk with her fiance, Andrew Beale, her family noticed that she was unwell. She told her mother, Dawn, that she had cried most days for no apparent reason and had not enjoyed the break. She had also developed a nasty taste in her mouth which has never been explained. Her weight fell from seven to six stones.

One morning she drove her car out of the garage to go to work as usual but ran indoors in tears, saying she could not face it. She never worked again. Clare became increasingly depressed. She gave up horse-riding and refused to socialise.

Her fiance thought their relationship was to blame, so he tried to end it. She was "devastated". Mr Tomkins said that he challenged Mr Beale the next week and "gave him a very hard time". He pleaded with her fiancé to be patient. "They reconciled their differences and I am proud to say that Andrew has supported Clare from that day."

During Christmas 1996, Clare complained of numb lips, pains in her knees and double vision. She became unsteady on her feet and her depression worsened. Her memory began to fade .

On the advice of a psychiatric nurse, Mr Tomkins persuaded her to keep a diary. Between January and March 1997 her "flamboyant" handwriting was reduced to a quarter of its usual size until it became an "indecipherable scrawl". Despite stronger anti-depressant drugs prescribed by her GP, Clare's condition worsened.

A psychiatrist said that she was suffering from acute anxiety and suggested it was caused by conflicts about leaving a secure home to be married. By the end of February 1997, Clare was thrashing her head from side to side and hallucinating . She was admitted to a clinic. By May 27, there were serious concerns for her health. She was exhausted and bruised on her arms and hands. There were cuts around her elbows, knees and ankle joints - inflicted when she hid in fear under her bed. She kicked at anyone approaching her. After treatment for her injuries she was given electric-shock treatment. Her mother agreed to have her sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Cranial scans showed nothing amiss but a lumbar puncture indicated an illness. On Aug 5, 1997, after Clare had been sent to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, for a biopsy of her tonsils, doctors confirmed that she had new variant CJD for which there was no cure. Mr Tomkins said: "We were devastated by the news".

After that, her parents decided she must be looked after at home. Mr Tomkins praised the standard of support the family received from their local health authority after his private health insurance company refused to make a contribution. Clare is now deteriorating slowly . She is at home and receiving round-the-clock professional care plus the constant attentions of her family and her fiancé.

Mr Tomkins, his voice breaking at times, said Clare's illness had a "devastating effect" on the family. He believed that it triggered, or exacerbated, his wife's ovarian cancer. She wanted to look after Clare herself. He said: "We have had Clare at home for five and a half months and my wife has been in hospital for four. Without Andrew, I don't know what I would have done."

He said he tried to be strong, "as the anchor for the family". But he cried when he was alone out of frustration at being unable to help his daughter recover and the knowledge that she would die an untimely death. The public gallery burst into spontaneous applause as Sir Nicholas Phillips, the Appeal Court judge heading the investigation, told Mr Tomkins how much the inquiry team admired his courage for giving evidence.


11 Mar 98 - Vet's reference to scrapie was cut from speech

By David Brown

Telegraph ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


The first vet to recognise BSE as a new disease in cattle claimed yesterday that the Ministry of Agriculture had a comparison of the illness with scrapie in sheep withdrawn from a scientific paper.

Colin Whitaker told the BSE inquiry that he had produced a scientific paper on the disease, which he described as "a new scrapie-like syndrome ," for a British Cattle Veterinary Association conference in Nottingham in July, 1987.

Scientists now believe that BSE was caused when cattle were given food containing the contaminated rendered remains of sheep infected with scrapie.

He found the cattle suffering from disease at Plurendon Manor Farm, High Halden, Kent, during 1986 and concluded that the symptoms were similar to those of scrapie.

But when he prepared the paper, with Carl Johnson, a local ministry veterinary investigation officer at Wye, "someone senior in MAFF" asked to see a copy before it was presented and requested that the words "scrapie-like" were not used . \Mr Whitaker said: "I do not know who it was was. You will have to ask Carl Johnson. [He] came to me and said, look, we've been asked not to use this. It came down the line. We discussed it at length as I was reluctant to cross it out. But in the end, in deference to Carl Johnson who had given me a great deal of help, I agreed. I had never come across this interference before or since."

The Veterinary Investigation Centre at Wye was closed in July 1987. Mr Whitaker said that it would have taken longer to establish the existence of BSE without the laboratories. But David Bee, a vet from Hampshire, told how BSE could have been identified nearly two years earlier when he was called to Pitsham Farm, Midhurst.

There were several cases of "downer cows" which suffered from tremors, a staggering gait, loss of appetite and aggression. On one occasion, a sick cow chased a fellow vet while on its knees. Peter Stent, the farmer, "donated" a sick animal for post-mortem tests in September 1985. Carol Richardson, a pathologist at the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Surrey, tested the brain and diagnosed a "spongiform encephalopathy" - a brain illness in the scrapie family.

Mr Bee said: "I recall my disbelief at this statement at the time ".

The condition was known to him and ministry investigators as Pitsham Farm Syndrome because nothing like it had been seen in cattle. He felt that the disease had something to do with animal food contaminated with toxins. The disease died out on the farm after the cattle food store was cleaned when traces of a toxin were found in food samples.

Mr Bee said organophosphate warble-fly treatments, blamed by some for BSE, were not used on the farm. He agreed with the inquiry team that some BSE-infected cattle may have escaped detection before 1984 because the symptoms were confused with hypomagnesaemia, a shortage of magnesium in the blood. In 1981 a cow had shown similar symptoms to the animals at Pitsham Farm.


11 Mar 98 - 'I eat beef but I'm not sure it's safe'

by Colin Adamson

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


The academic who led the Government's first major inquiry into BSE today criticised the way the beef industry failed to respond to safety recommendations , but insisted that now the system had been tightened up the threat to human life should have been greatly reduced.

Professor Sir Richard Southwood said he continues to eat beef and he told the BSE inquiry there was no way of knowing for certain that any continued danger existed .

He said: "It may be that all infection arose from the tissues of animals showing clinical symptoms and that the specified offals ban was unnecessary and any concern about beef today is misguided.

At present, we have no way of telling." Referring to the tragic case of 24-year-old Clare Tomkins from Kent, whose horrific symptoms were described by her father yesterday, Professor Southwood said she had been a vegetarian for more than 11 years before contracting new variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.

He said: "This fact is consistent with the hypothesis that infection arose from tissues of an animal, with clinical symptoms, entering the food chain before the compulsory slaughter policy was introduced."

Professor Southwood and other members of his working party said they were "horrified" at the way cattle had been slaughtered . When the group first met in 1988 they were told that the heads of infected beasts were being cut off with chainsaws.

At the same time his committee was told that cattle showing symptoms were still entering both animal and human food chains .

There was criticism of the Tory administration for failing to provide sufficient funding for a specialist scientific unit in Edinburgh.

As a result, the BSE specialists there were "very unhappy and disillusioned".

Professor Southwood said his committee had been concerned about the slow progress of Government research into BSE at the time of their investigation, particularly in respect of probing the possibility of the disease passing from cow to calf.

He said: "The failure to support or undertake more research was regrettable ."


11 Mar 98 - Father tells of CJD daughter's living hell

Staff Reporter

Times ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


The father of a woman who has the human form of "mad cow" disease yesterday told how his daughter had been reduced to howling like an injured animal .

Roger Tomkins, pictured, an engineering company director, told the public inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that it had been thought at first that Clare Tomkins, 24, was in need of psychiatric care.

She was finally confirmed as suffering from new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) last August. Scientists believe the disease is caused by eating beef infected with BSE. She is one of 23 people struck down so far by nvCJD , which differs from the usual form of the disease by affecting younger people. The pattern of brain damage is also different, in that it is virtually identical to BSE.

Her case was unusual in that she had been a strict vegetarian since 1985. It is thought that she must have become infected before 1985 and had been incubating the disease for more than 12 years .

Miss Tomkins is bedridden and unable to communicate or control her bodily functions. Because she cannot swallow she has to rely on an automatic pump by her bed to clear her saliva and prevent her choking. She is being looked after by her family at their home near East Peckham in Kent with the help of round-the-clock nursing. Her mother, Dawn, is also seriously ill, with ovarian cancer. Before she became ill last October she had been her daughter's main carer, a role that the Tomkins's elder daughter, Lisa, now shares with her father.

"We still have that final blow to be delivered that 22 other families have already suffered," Mr Tomkins said. "I know that there is nothing within my power or within the power of the medical profession to stop it."

He added: "As the anchor for my family, I feel that I have to be strong but, when alone, I cry because of my feelings of sheer frustration and despair."

Mr Tomkins described his daughter as "full of fun" before her illness. She had loved animals of all kinds, had supported a pony and horse sanctuary and had worked as supervisor in the pet section of a local garden centre.

The family first noticed something odd in 1996, when Miss Tomkins became prone to uncharacteristic mood swings. The change became particularly noticeable after she returned from a week's holiday with her fiancé. She confided to her mother that she cried most days for no apparent reason, and complained that she had a permanent nasty taste in her mouth. She also began to lose weight rapidly.

"One morning in October, Clare drove her car out of the garage but then ran indoors in tears saying that she could not face going out to work," Mr Tomkins said. "Clare never worked again."

Her GP, Nick Cheales, who also gave evidence on the second day of the London inquiry yesterday, prescribed anti-depressants, but these failed to lighten her mood. By January she was complaining of numbness in her lips and pains in her knees. She was unsteady on her feet and losing her memory.

Advice was sought from a private psychiatric clinic in Sevenoaks, Kent, where doctors told Mr Tomkins his daughter was suffering from "hysterical anxiety", triggered by a conflict between wanting to live with her fiancé and not wanting to leave the security of her home.

Her condition failed to respond to therapy, her movements becoming more and more agitated and bizarre. Mr Tomkins told the inquiry: "Whenever she sat down the first thing she wanted to do was slide down and almost be flat. Her head would swing violently from side to side , and that could go on for hours."

She was admitted to the clinic as an inpatient, but Mr Tomkins took her home after finding her one day shaking violently and lying naked except for her knickers on a bed soaked with urine. At home her condition worsened. She could no longer walk and violent thrashing head movements became more frequent. "She howled like an injured animal ," Mr Tomkins said. "She looked at you as though you were the devil incarnate. The fear in her eyes was horrific. She started to hallucinate , and it was clear that Clare was tormented by her condition."

In desperation the family agreed to a course of electro-convulsive therapy. This seemed to help initially but she reverted to her previous state. It was not until August 5 of last year that a biopsy on her tonsils established that she was suffering from nvCJD.

Mr Tomkins was asked if he questioned why his daughter had become a victim. He said: "I do ask myself that question every single day. I look at people in this room, I look at football matches and hundreds of thousands of people, and think, why my daughter? I'm sure other families think the same.

"It's such a minuscule risk, but it's happened, and the results of that risk are terrible. It's not just like somebody dying. She's lived a hell for 18 months now."

Asked what he felt about the way BSE had been handled by the Government, Mr Tomkins said: "I believe there was an element of risk taken , and that my daughter and the other sad cases are the result of that risk." As Mr Tomkins gave his evidence - keeping his composure throughout - relatives of other nvCJD victims wept openly . At the end Mr Tomkins was congratulated for his courage by Lord Justice Phillips, the inquiry chairman, and given a spontaneous round of applause. The inquiry continues.


11 Mar 98 - Ministry 'amended report' on early BSE case

by Michael Hornsby

Times ... Wednesday 11 March 1998


A vet was forced by a senior Ministry of Agriculture official to amend the wording of a research paper on sick cows he had delivered in early 1987 , the BSE inquiry was told yesterday.

Colin Whitaker, who works in Ashford, Kent, based the paper on his examination of the cows at Plurenden Manor Farm, at High Halden, Kent, which are now accepted as having been early cases of BSE.

Mr Whitaker planned to present the findings at a conference of the British Cattle Veterinary Association in Nottingham. In the paper he referred to a "new scrapie-like syndrome ". However, the ministry had asked to see a copy of the report before it was presented and an unnamed official had insisted the words "scrapie-like" be taken out .

Another vet who dealt with what is now thought to have been the first outbreak of BSE said that he had been baffled by the symptoms, which were unlike anything he had seen.

David Bee told the inquiry that he had been called to Pitsham Farm at Midhurst, West Sussex, in December 1984. The first cow he looked at was suffering from an arched back and weight loss and went on to develop tremors and loss of co-ordination, dying two months later. "She was a mystery," he said.

Others died and, after a post-mortem on one, Carol Richardson, a pathologist at the Central Veterinary Laboratory at Weybridge, Surrey, which is run by the Ministry of Agriculture, diagnosed a "moderate spongiform encephalopathy", but her superiors failed to act on her finding.


10 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry under way with pledge of extra time

By Owen Bowcott

Guardian ... Tuesday 10 March 1998


The inquiry into BSE opened yesterday as a round table discussion and was immediately granted a six month extension by the Prime Minister because of the complexity of the issues surrounding the outbreak.

The final report of the chairman, Sir Nicholas Phillips, is likely to be completed in mid-1999 after gathering evidence from at least 100 scientists, 300 medical publications, 300 civil servants and 150 ministers.

Outlining the aims of the inquiry, expected to cost £2 million, Sir Nicholas, a Court of Appeal judge, said the hearing would have an informal atmosphere.

He had asked the Prime Minister "to give us an extra six months to achieve the task he has set us". Downing Street later indicated that the extra time would be made available.

More than 170,000 cattle have been diagnosed as suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy since it was first identified on a Kent farm in 1985.

Much of the inquiry will be directed towards establishing how 23 people have so far died from the BSE-related human disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD).

Most authorities accept that a prion protein-type infection was transmitted to humans through beef from infected cattle fed on the rendered-down remains of other cows, or sheep ill with scrapie.

Paul Walker, counsel to the inquiry, explained that alternative theories - including the part played by organo-phosphates used from the late 1970s to treat cattle for warble fly - would also be examined.

Medical reports from the early 1960s suggest that BSE occurred sporadically in cattle for many years, and cows may not have caught the disease from scrapie-carrying recycled sheep carcasses.

In the early 1960s several mink farms in North America suffered outbreaks of a BSE-like wasting disease. The animals, bred for fur, had been fed tripe and beef by-products from cattle deemed unfit for human consumption. The inquiry is expected to hear further evidence about the existence of BSE in the US.

"The terms of reference of the inquiry do not just require us to establish what happened but also consider whether things could have been done differently," said Mr Walker.

David Body, solicitor for the families of victims who suffered nvCJD, said: "We want to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again."

Roger Tomkins, whose daughter Clare is dying of nvCJD and who will give evidence today, welcomed the start of the inquiry. "I hope we get the answers we are looking for," he said.

As the hearings proceed, evidence will be posted on an Internet website http://www.bse.org.uk

The public hearing is being held on the sixth floor of Hercules House, Hercules Road, Lambeth, south London.


10 Mar 98 - How my beautiful daughter was destroyed by mad cow disease

Charles Arthur, Science Editor

Independent ... Tuesday 10 March 1998


A father presents moving testimony to the Government's BSE inquiry. reports

Two and a half years ago, Clare Tomkins was a fit and active 22-year-old, "a stunning strawberry blonde, with a personality to match".

Yesterday, in a harrowing narrative, her father Roger Tomkins relived the agony of the disease which has left his "darling daughter" bed-bound and clinically blind , requiring 24-hour care because she is in constant danger of drowning in her own saliva.

In moving testimony on the second day of the BSE Inquiry, Mr Tomkins, an engineering director from Tonbridge, Kent, told how for months doctors and psychiatrists had struggled to produce a diagnosis for the worsening collection of symptoms - such as depression and inability to walk - afflicting his second daughter.

Clare, who is still alive, was eventually diagnosed in August 1997 as having "new variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD), almost certainly caused by eating food infected with BSE, or "mad cow disease" - even though she was a strict vegetarian since 1985 . After hearing her father speak yesterday, Lord Justice Phillips, who is chairing the inquiry into the causes of BSE and the events leading up to March 1996 - when the last government announced the existence of a link between the two fatal diseases - said: "I felt it was important that your evidence should be given at the start of this inquiry."

At the hearing in London yesterday, many other members of families who have lost members to v-CJD cried as they heard Mr Tomkins' description of his daughter's descent from her normal self.

Clare, her father recalled, had been displaying peculiar symptoms since January 1996, notably complaining of an odd taste in her mouth and worsening depression. But her family doctor, and subsequently a number of specialists, reckoned the cause was mental rather than physical.

More than a year after the Government had publicly announced the existence of v-CJD, and government experts had written to psychologists and psychiatrists to ask them to look for particular groups of symptoms, one psychiatrist treating Clare insisted that her weight loss, crying, numbness, agitation and erratic balance were caused by psychiatric illness.

As the illness worsened in 1997, "her hands turned inwards, her feet too. She became knock-kneed, and her hips disjointed, so she could not walk", Mr Tomkins said. "She would make more and more sudden head movements. Her eyesight deteriorated and she cried constantly. "The worst thing," he said slowly, "was sometimes at night, when she would howl like a sick, injured animal . She started to hallucinate. It is now clear to me that she was tormented in her condition."

In April 1997, Clare ceased to recognise her mother , Dawn, and a few weeks later declared that "Dad is dead". Yet by this stage neither doctors nor psychiatric specialists had diagnosed v-CJD. She was admitted to a private psychiatric clinic which prescribed "reward therapy" in which she would be allowed treats such as watching television in return for raising her self-esteem by carrying out tasks such as washing herself.

"I couldn't see any reward that would be sufficient to motivate her," Mr Tomkins said. "But we were told that Clare had a psychiatric condition, in which she was torn between leaving home and staying with her family. The psychiatrist was absolutely adamant this was the source of the trouble." He was told that the family must not visit her for two weeks as part of the therapy.

Eight days after leaving her, he was told by the clinic that they had stopped the therapy because they were concerned about her health. Mr Tomkins and his wife rushed to see their daughter. "We were horrified at what we saw. We found Clare in a physically and mentally exhausted state. Her skin was covered in carpet burns and her whole body in tiny cuts. We were told she had inflicted these upon herself when she got so scared she hid under the bed. My darling daughter in her state of fear and anxiety obviously cut herself on the bed's springs."

Clare was taken to the casualty unit of a nearby hospital, where Mr Tomkins insisted that the cuts should be catalogued. She was then admitted and cared for in an acute ward. "I haven't enough praise for the staff there," he said. Pointedly, he did not praise the private clinic's care.

Clare is now at home where her health authority provides constant care. "We are - I hesitate to use the word lucky - but fortunate that we have such a care package," said Mr Tomkins. "It is the very minimum that you need."

As he finished, one of the panel members asked him if he had any views why his younger daughter - and not any other member - had fallen ill, he replied: "I do ask myself that question every day. I look at people. and ask, why my daughter? It's such a miniscule risk but it's happened, and the results are terrible. It's not just like dying. She has lived in hell for 18 months."

Doctors are still unable to say how long Clare will survive. There is still no cure for v-CJD .


10 Mar 98 - Blair agrees to extend deadline for BSE inquiry

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 10 March 1998


The inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalopathy and its equivalent fatal human brain disease was extended by six months yesterday on the orders of the Prime Minister.

Sir Nicholas Phillips, the Appeal Court judge heading the investigation into BSE, announced on the first day of the public inquiry in London that he would not be able to complete his report to ministers by the original deadline of December 31.

The inquiry aims to determine the origins of the disease, and whether enough was done to protect the public. BSE has killed more than 170,000 cattle in Britain since it was first recognised by government pathologists in 1986. It has also been linked with the deaths of 23 people from a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. News of this link, announced by the previous government on March 20, 1996, provoked the beef crisis and the European Union's ban on exports of beef from Britain.

Sir Nicholas said: "This is a very important inquiry which will be investigating BSE and CJD - two diseases which have had tragic consequences. Having analysed the work to be done, I have concluded that the inquiry cannot be completed by the end of the year. I am not prepared to contemplate a superficial report which would disappoint the many people who rightly expect this inquiry to be a thorough one. I have therefore asked the Prime Minister to give us an extra six months to achieve the task."

The Government announced the BSE inquiry last December and initial estimates have put its cost at £2 million. Sir Nicholas said yesterday: "It is only in the last month that I have come to appreciate the true scale of our task."

A spokesman for Tony Blair said the Government had no difficulty in allowing a six-month extension to the inquiry which is seeking evidence from 150 former ministers, 300 civil servants and more than 100 scientists. Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, announced the extension in a written Parliamentary answer.

Sir Nicholas said the inquiry was dealing with complex issues and conflicting scientific opinions. A number of theories about the cause of BSE called for scrutiny of scientific evidence and epidemiological studies. One theory was that it was caused by meat and bone meal, a rendered by-product of cattle and sheep used in cattle food rations. Others said it was caused by toxins in the farming industry. All called for an historical analysis of their use.

Sir Nicholas said: "So far as the new variant CJD is concerned we have to consider the histories of those who have tragically died of that disease to see whether and in what way contact with BSE may have resulted in their deaths. Then we are required to consider whether the response to the emergence of BSE and to the risk of CJD was adequate."

Paul Walker, the counsel to the inquiry, said that some had accused officials of keeping information secret before the announcement on March 20, 1996, that new variant CJD was probably triggered by BSE-infected beef. If facts were kept from the public it was the job of the inquiry to find out why. "There is no room for secrecy now," he said. The extension was welcomed by relatives of victims of the new variant CJD.


10 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry calls for extra time as evidence mounts

by Michael Hornsby, Agriculture Correspondent

Times ... Tuesday 10 March 1998


The public inquiry into BSE is to be extended by six months at the request of the presiding judge because of the growing mountain of evidence that his committee will have to scale.

Opening the inquiry in London yesterday, Lord Justice Phillips said that he had decided the original December 31 deadline set by the Government could not be met.

Downing Street immediately granted the extension. Lord Justice Phillips said: "I am not prepared to contemplate a report that is superficial because it has been too rushed, and I do not believe that those who are anxiously looking forward to receiving this report would wish us to sacrifice thoroughness for speed."

The inquiry has already accumulated hundreds of documents and scientific papers relating to "mad cow" disease and received 500 submissions of evidence. Among those called to give written evidence or to appear before the inquiry will be farmers, consumers, representatives of the beef and food industries and the retail trade and relatives of people who have died of new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

To date 23 people have developed the fatal degenerative brain disease , which is incurable. The new-variant strain differs from the usual form in striking younger people.

Lord Justice Phillips said the main aim of the inquiry was to assess "the adequacy of response" of ministers, government officials and scientists to the emerging evidence about BSE "in the light of contemporary knowledge".

The opening was attended by David and Dorothy Churchill, from Devizes, Wiltshire, whose son, Stephen, died aged 19 on May 21, 1995, the first known victim of new-variant CJD. Mr Churchill, who led the campaign for a public inquiry, said: "We are pleased by the six-month extension because we feared the inquiry might not have enough time to do a proper job."

The first witness to give evidence will be Roger Tomkins, the father of Clare Tomkins, who contracted new-variant CJD last year despite having been a vegetarian for ten years . He and two vets, Colin Whitaker and David Bee, who examined what are now recognised to have been the first cases of BSE, will appear today.

One of the main tasks of the inquiry will be to examine why the ban on human consumption of potentially infected parts of cattle carcasses was not introduced until four years after the first diagnosis of spongiform encephalopathy in a cow in late 1985.

The inquiry yesterday heard an eloquent appeal for justice from David Body, a solicitor representing the families of new-variant CJD victims, who read out a statement on behalf of the Human BSE Foundation, a body formed by the families last year. The families said they were not seeking scapegoats but wanted to know the individuals responsible for giving advice and making decisions during the period covered by the inquiry, which ends on March 20, 1996, the date when the probable link between BSE and new-variant CJD was first publicly admitted.

Mr Body said a "central concern" was to establish whether officials had ever made a judgment that "the risk of human contamination [from BSE] could be regarded as remote until it happened" and that "some lives might be a price worth paying " to avoid economic damage to the farming industry.


09 Mar 98 - BSE inquiry will break new ground

by Frances Gibb, Legal Correspondent

Times ... Monday 9 March 1997


More than 300 ministers, former ministers and civil servants have been warned that they may be required to give evidence at the public inquiry into "mad cow" disease, which opens today.

The inquiry, under Lord Justice Phillips, is expected to be one of the fullest and most thorough set up by a Government, rivalling the Scott inquiry. But it is also set to become a model for new, high-tech proceedings.

The inquiry, which could cost up to £10 million, will be the first to have its own Website carrying daily transcripts and witnesses' submissions in advance of giving evidence, so that members of the public may alert the inquiry to any errors. It will also allow in cameras for the opening statements by the judge, by the counsel to the inquiry, Paul Walker, and others (although not for cross-examination of witnesses); and there will be a permanent radio feed, so that live broadcasts will be possible. The judge, lawyers and representatives of the victims or farming industry will have laptop computers.

LiveNote, the instant automatic transcription of what is said in court, will be used. This system, operated by Smith Bernal, was deployed in the trial of the Maxwell brothers, in which Lord Justice Phillips won plaudits for his efficient handling and insistence on new technology.

As the words are said, they appear on a computer screen and can be immediately annotated or cross-indexed. At any time, all references to one witness or a date can be accessed.

The Scott inquiry spent a year trawling for documents and obtaining all the evidence before the hearings began. The BSE inquiry, announced before Christmas, has already received more than 500 submissions and more are being sought by special teams in Whitehall. It plans to go ahead with the first stage, the fact-finding hearings, as these are collated and analysed.

Nor will draft findings be sent out to those involved before publication - what became known as Scott letters - to enable people to comment. That process delayed Scott by several months.

Today there will be opening statements from the judge, counsel to the inquiry and others, and then witnesses will give evidence, starting with a narrative account of the early cases of BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - as one official put it, "what it was actually like for the families of the victims" - followed by scientific evidence.

The deadline for reporting is the end of this year and it is possible that Lord Justice Phillips may ask the Government for an extension of six months. Even at a total of 18 months, the inquiry would still take half the time of the Scott inquiry.

The non-statutory status of the inquiry means that it has no power to summon witnesses or insist on disclosure of papers . It does not expect to meet resistance; if it did, it could seek powers at a later date.

But Lord Justice Phillips is keen to make the atmosphere as public, as user-friendly and inquisitorial as possible. There will be no private hearings.

The terms of reference are to establish and review the history of the emergence and identification of BSE and the new-variant CJD in Britain and of the action taken for ten years until March 1996.

The Scott inquiry was criticised for having no experience or knowledge of the workings of Whitehall. The BSE inquiry committee includes a senior civil servant, June Bridgeman, most recently deputy chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Also included is Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, Professor of Pathology at Cambridge and a well-known geneticist.

The team has already produced an impressive array of working documents, including a glossary of scientific terms, a list of individuals involved, a BSE "time line" listing the main events, and a list of papers available for public inspection.

The inquiry's Internet site is: http://www.bse.org.uk

Canada seizes British meat

Canada has begun a nationwide food inspection campaign after illegal meat-based products from Britain were seized from shops in eastern and western Canada. Imports have been banned since 1996. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the products - beef bouillon, soups and meat pies - were found in Calgary, Alberta; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Richmond, British Columbia; Montreal; and Toronto. Shop owners were told to destroy them.


09 Mar 98 - Victims' families plead for justice in BSE inquiry

by Colin Adamson and Charles Reiss

Evening Standard ... Monday 9 March 1997


The long-awaited inquiry into the BSE outbreak began today with an impassioned plea for justice from the families of victims of the human form of "mad cow" disease.

The parents of the first young man to die heard their solicitor tell Lord Justice Phillips: "We must never lose sight of the true depths of this catastrophe - a catastrophe that has for us, the members of the Human BSE Foundation, cost the lives of loved ones or promises to do so."

The victims' families demanded the answers to five main questions. They were:

Why did an outbreak of the disease in cattle become a bovine epidemic? Why were the wrong "experts" consulted regarding BSE?

Why, when warnings were given that BSE posed a threat to humans, was no action taken?

Why, when precautions were taken, were they implemented piecemeal and not enforced adequately?

Why has the public been continuously assured that British beef is "perfectly safe" amid mounting evidence that it was not and is not?


The inquiry chairman made an immediate appeal to the Prime Minister to extend the four-month period for at least another six months. Mr Justice Phillips said he was not prepared to contemplate a report that was rushed and added that others waiting to receive it would not want to sacrifice thoroughness for speed. The news was welcomed by solicitor David Body and by the head of the victims' support group David Churchill and his wife Dorothy who lost her son Stephen, 20.

Ten Downing Street said that it was more important that there should be a thorough going inquiry into the origins of the BSE crisis and that Lord Justice Phillips had clearly worked out that he needed more time.

Mr Body highlighted the impact the disease had had on a group of 27 families. He said the first plea for a public investigation was made in August 1995 following the death of Stephen Churchill from a "devastating dementia quite unlike anything seen before ".

He added that no one yet knew the extent to which humans would be affected. "We ask the inquiry to establish the sequence of events, the advice given and the decisions made on such advice which has led to the loss of their loved ones."

Mr Body said: "We do not seek scapegoats from today's administration." He added, however, that the families needed to know the individuals responsible for giving advice and making decisions and that they should be made accountable for such actions.

The hearing continues.


09 Mar 98 - Families seek an end to CJD torment

Charles Arthur, Science Editor

Independent ... Monday 9 March 1997


For Terry and Shirley Warne, the public hearings of the BSE Inquiry, which start today in London, can't come soon enough. Ever since they began noticing something was awry with their 36-year-old son Christopher in January 1997, they have been pulled into the whirlpool of self-doubt and confusion that has affected all 23 families who have lost members to "new variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD) - caused by eating BSE-infected food.

"It's like a torment," said Mrs Warne. "You ask yourself again and again how it happened. A woman came down from the Edinburgh Surveillance Unit [which gathers case histories]. She asked questions for two-and-a-half hours about what he had eaten and what he had done, right from the age of five."

The beginning of the public part of the inquiry may help to lay those demons, which is why the Warnes travelled down at the weekend from their home in Ripley, Derbyshire, to a hotel in the Elephant and Castle, close to the hearings at Hercules House, near Lambeth North Underground station.

Today, at the first hearing, David Body - the solicitor representing the families - will make a statement on their behalf. The inquiry's chairman, Lord Justice Phillips, has asked one of the families and their GP to give a statement on Tuesday about the impact the disease has had on them.

For the Warnes, it was a sudden descent from having a son who was a health fanatic, to someone who could no longer walk unaided. "January last year was our 40th wedding anniversary. Chris said he was feeling cold along one side of his body. He went upstairs and got down a duvet and sat wrapped up in it."

Then Mrs Warne found that he had begun sleeping on the floor; and then that he was becoming forgetful; and then that he had lost his job of three years as a senior systems analyst at Sky TV in Edinburgh. "They said he just sat and stared at the screen."

On 31 July Chris was hospitalised; on 20 October, at 4.15pm, he died.

The Warnes' main hope is that the inquiry will establish something. Sometimes Mrs Warne looks at a diary Chris kept as a student in Surrey: he used to cook chillis, with cheap mince, the sort known to have probably contained mechanically recovered meat with the most infectious particles.

"But all his friends ate the same thing," Mrs Warne says. "Why haven't they got it?" It's a question which may be beyond the reach of any inquiry.


07 Mar 98 - Canadian Alert on BSE

News in Brief

Times ... Saturday 7 March 1998


Canadian Government officials have issued warnings over beef products, and food inspectors have begun removing British tinned foods, including Bovril, Bisto Gravy, shepherd's pie and broths, from shops . The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it had been unable to obtain assurances from the British Government that none of the beef in the products came from British herds .


05 Mar 98 - Euro vets vote to ease beef ban

By Toby Helm in Brussels and David Brown

Telegraph ... Thursday 5 March 1998


The global ban on British beef exports looks certain to end later this month for "BSE-free" herds in Northern Ireland after vets from 10 EU countries backed the move yesterday.

A 10-4 vote by members of the EU Commission's Standing Veterinary Committee in Brussels was the breakthrough that the Government had longed for since the worldwide embargo was imposed by the European Commission almost two years ago.

Ulster was singled out for special treatment because it has a computerised cattle tracking system which is able to prove that beef comes from a certified herd, free from BSE for at least five years . A similar system will not be operational in England, Wales and Scotland until the summer. Before the ban, Ulster exported 50 per cent of its beef - 450,000 tons worth £200 million a year - to France, Holland, Italy, Spain and South Africa, among others. Tony Blair, who is under fire in the shires from voters disaffected by Labour policies for rural areas, seized on the vote as a Government triumph.

To a chorus of Labour cheers, he told the Commons: "The Commission proposal, if held at the Agriculture Council next week, and I very much believe that it will, will mean that the export certified herd scheme is through and at long last, after long years of Conservative failure, there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel." The Prime Minister appeared so excited by the news that he got his dates mixed up.

The next meeting of EU farm ministers is on March 16 - the week after next. Despite caution among British farming leaders that some new political obstacle might be put in Ulster's way, the signs in Brussels last night were that ministers would overwhelmingly endorse the vets' recommendation. Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, said: "This is a very encouraging result. The discussion has gone well. The decision should now be taken at the Agriculture Council on March 16-17, where a simple majority is all that will be required."

British officials in Brussels said the vote meant that the vets had endorsed scientific arguments for lifting the ban. Although the proposal to ease the ban will have to be agreed by the 15 farm ministers, and could yet fall victim to political in-fighting, a repeat of yesterday's tally of 10 countries in favour, four against and one abstention would be easily enough to win the day.

This would then allow some exports of beef to resume from Northern Ireland. British officials said they now hoped progress could be made on a separate British proposal to lift the ban for meat from all animals born after August 1996. A total of 1,766 cases of BSE have been recorded in Northern Ireland since 1988. The number has been steadily declining from a maximum of 1,187 in 1993 to 28 last year.

David Rutledge, chief executive of the Livestock and Meat Commission of Northern Ireland, said: "This is very good news and comes as a great relief to our beef farmers. If all goes well at the next meeting of EU agricultural ministers we will have to set about re-building links with our overseas customers."

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, described it as "an enormous step forward".


05 Mar 98 - Exports: Ban could be eased in months

By Michael Smith in Brussels and Maggie Urry in London

Financial Times ... Thursday 5 March 1998


A two-year ban on UK beef exports seems certain to be eased within months after European veterinary experts yesterday gave unexpectedly strong support to a scheme certifying that herds are free of BSE.

Veterinarians from 10 of the European Union's 15 countries backed the "certified herds " scheme, which would initially allow only exports from Ulster.

The EU banned UK beef exports in March 1996 amid fears over BSE, known as mad cow disease.

Yesterday's vote was insufficient to secure the qualified majority needed to lift the ban, leaving the final decision to agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels on March 16 and 17. Diplomats said the chances of the UK winning the simple majority needed then were strong.

Separately, the vets delivered a setback to a strategy proposed last week by the European Commission for fighting BSE throughout the union and avoiding a trade war with the US.

At a two-day meeting of the standing veterinary committee, representatives from only three nations voted in favour of Commission proposals that would increase a list of banned cattle parts but would delay full implementation of the ban until the start of next year.

The Commission recommended the strategy following fierce opposition to its earlier proposals from countries including the US, which argues a ban will disrupt trade in industrial products containing cattle parts.

Germany, which claims it has no indigenous cases of BSE, says it should not be included in the ban.

The strategy will now be considered by farm ministers at the March meeting.

In the UK, the vote on the certified herds scheme was welcomed by Jack Cunningham, farm minister.

He said it should mean Britain had a good chance of securing the simple majority needed among agriculture ministers.

If ministers support the scheme, vets would need several weeks to inspect Northern Ireland facilities, but exports from the province could resume in May or June.

Northern Ireland qualifies because, unlike the rest of the UK, it has a computerised register which can track cattle movements for at least eight years.


05 Mar 98 - EU vote may spell end of beef ban

By Katherine Butler in Brussels

Independent ... Thursday 5 March 1998


The lifting of the ban on British beef exports from Northern Ireland was approved yesterday by European Union vets in Brussels.

By a majority vote they endorsed British plans to end the trade blockade in all UK areas covered by a computerised monitoring system for cattle.

It is the first breakthrough for farmers since the world-wide export ban was imposed by the European Commission in March 1996 in response to the spread of mad-cow disease. Labour MPs waved order papers when Tony Blair said the first step had been taken in lifting the ban.

It was seen as a important political victory for the Government, answering claims that ministers were failing the countryside with the march on London at the weekend.

Mr Blair used the announcement at Prime Minister's questions to turn the tables on William Hague, the Tory leader, who joined the march. "After years of Conservative failure there is at last some light at the end of the tunnel. I can announce the report from Brussels there has been a majority for the commission proposals."

The Prime Minister said the final decision would have to await the agriculture council chaired by Jack Cunningham, Minister of Agriculture. Europe's agriculture ministers meet on 16 March to consider the proposal. If a simple majority is in favour, the ban will be lifted.

But when ministers vote a week on Monday, only a simple majority is required. If yesterday's line-up is repeated, the proposal will get through.

British officials in Brussels said yesterday's result was "a good omen". Germany, which has remained resolute in opposition to any easing of the embargo, was never likely to back the measure but now appears to have only minority support. "The thing we wanted to avoid was a simple majority against the proposal and that did not happen," said a British source.

Numbers backing Britain have swollen from the point some weeks ago when only Ireland and the Netherlands were openly declaring their support.

Northern Ireland farmers have been especially hard hit by the ban, despite having the lowest incidence of mad-cow disease . Under the scheme developed by the Government and backed by the European Commission, they could resume exports from animals aged 6 to 30 months, from herds free of the disease for at least eight years whose identity and movements are recorded on a computerised data base. Northern Ireland has had a computerised cattle-tracing system for a decade.

The rest of the UK will only get a fully fledged base to be combined with cattle passports from this month.


05 Mar 98 - Beef hopes rise as Europe lets in Ulster exports

by Charles Bremner in Brussels and Michael Hornsby

Times ... Thursday 5 March 1998


The worldwide ban on British beef could be eased later this month after most European Union states voted yesterday to let Northern Ireland resume exports from herds that are certified free of BSE .

The vote by national veterinary officials from ten states failed to reach the "qualified majority" that would have immediately relaxed the export embargo, imposed almost two years ago at the height of the BSE scare. But British officials were confident that farm ministers would lift the ban in Brussels on March 16, when only a simple majority would be needed.

Tony Blair backed that assessment. He said in the Commons that the vets' vote was a breakthrough towards getting the ban on all British beef lifted.

"There has been a majority for the [EU] Commission proposals, which if upheld at the Agriculture Council next week - and I very much believe it will - will mean that the export certified-herd scheme is through," Mr Blair said. "And at long last, after long years of Conservative failure, there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel."

Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, said: "This is a very encouraging result." He and his team have been critical of what they see as politically driven opposition from Germany and other EU states. The minister told a parliamentary committee that it was "economically and politically convenient" for other EU states to sustain the ban. The Germans voted yesterday against the Northern Ireland scheme, along with Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.

France abstained, saying it wanted more information on anti-BSE measures in Britain. Dr Cunningham said: "Had France voted in favour, we would have obtained the necessary qualified majority for final and complete approval of the scheme."

The unexpectedly high vote in Britain's favour appeared to have been partly promoted by a political compromise, in which the EU Commission last week proposed exempting states that claimed to be free of BSE from new restrictions on the sale of bone-in beef and other animal parts. The measure had been resisted in several states as unnecessary and burdensome. Diplomats also noted the general feeling that, after two years, memories of John Major's ill-fated "beef war" were fading and it was time to make a gesture towards Britain. The proposed resumption of beef exports applies to deboned beef from cattle aged between six and 30 months which come from herds certified to have been free of BSE for eight years . Northern Ireland is the only region which meets the EU's stringent conditions because it has established a computerised system for tracking its cattle from birth. Other parts of the United Kingdom are setting up such systems.

An easing of the ban in Northern Ireland is significant. Before the ban came in at the end of March 1996, Britain exported about £520 million of beef a year, of which £234 million, or 45 per cent, came from Ulster.

Northern Irish officials estimate that 97 per cent of farms in the Province should be eligible for export under the certified herd scheme. There have been only 1,769 BSE cases in the Province, compared with more than 170,000 in Britain as a whole.

Government officials accept that it will take years before all restrictions are removed. British meat is still regarded with suspicion across the EU after the previous Government's announcement of a possible link with CJD. British negligence is widely deemed to have been behind the epidemic.

Tony Blair's political advisers have been banned from reading papers from the previous Conservative administration that have been supplied to the BSE inquiry. The commitment was demanded by John Major before he agreed to release Downing Street and Ministry of Agriculture files that related to BSE during his premiership. There was already a convention that ministers would not have access to the papers. A senior Conservative source said last night that former ministers had feared there might be leaks before the final report from Lord Justice Phillips. The inquiry starts Monday.


04 Mar 98 - Beef farmers need more aid, say MPs

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 3 March 1998


Restrictions on aid to beef farmers were attacked yesterday by MPs, who said Britain was in danger of handing its home market to foreign producers.

They called for more cash aid for the industry to prevent an exodus of farmers and a collapse in meat production. Given the adverse impact of the strong pound, and troubles with mad cow disease, the Commons Select Committee for Agriculture said: "We think farmers are right to expect the Government to treat them sympathetically."

In a report on the plight of the UK beef industry, the committee criticised Jack Cunningham, Agriculture Minister, and his team for ignoring its earlier advice and presiding over the reduction of incomes among hill farmers.

The MPs also attacked the European Union for "subverting" moves to lift its global export ban on British beef for political and commercial reasons to benefit other European farmers. But they reserved the brunt of their complaints for the Government. The committee attacked the Ministry of Agriculture for loading extra costs on the beef industry, for hygiene controls in abattoirs and cattle traceability measures which are not imposed on other EU farmers.

Mr Cunningham pre-empted this criticism last week by reversing a Government decision to impose £70 million in charges on farmers over the next year. The committee called on the Government to reconsider its decision to place a maximum weight limit on slaughtered animals. This, it said, discriminated against beef producers whose cattle were often larger animals resulting from crosses with big, Continental breeds.

Mr Cunningham defended his record and claimed that farmers were getting a "tremendous amount of support from this Government". But he said: "The reality is that we do not have unlimited access to additional money."

The committee acknowledged that the beef industry would have to be "restructured", but said in the present "abnormal circumstances" that could lead to an influx of foreign beef into Britain. Restructuring must take place with other EU states, it added.


04 Mar 98 - Our mad cow was a Swiss import, claim worried Germans

By Toby Helm, EU Correspondent, in Brussels

Telegraph ... Wednesday 3 March 1998


Germany's proud claim to have had no cases of mad cow disease in domestically bred cattle is being called into question in Brussels following an argument with Switzerland over a beast called Anita.

The European Commission has asked for full details of the case after Swiss experts denied German claims that a cow infected with BSE found in Bavaria was Anita, an animal imported from Switzerland in 1995.

After carrying out tests on the dead animal's brain, the Swiss say they found no genetic match with other members of Anita's family, including her father.

Senior officials in Brussels say Germany will have to provide a full explanation of the cow's origins if it is to retain its record as a nation with no native cases of BSE and avoid cover-up claims.

Suspicions grew last night as strong rumours circulated in the Commission's agriculture directorate of another disputed BSE case in Germany. One senior EU official said: "We will have to sort all this out as the stories are beginning to get around."

The Anita case will be of great interest in Britain, which has had to endure German boasts about its freedom from BSE in home-bred cattle since the mad cow crisis broke in March 1996.

Germany has led opposition to all attempts to ease the 23-month-old worldwide ban on British beef exports. Only six cases of BSE have been found in Germany and the authorities insist that all were in imported cattle. Five were in cows imported from Britain and the sixth, the Germans claimed, was Anita, the Swiss cow.

But a spokesman for the Swiss veterinary authorities said yesterday that the German information had been incorrect .

"We have done the genetic tests and it is not possible that this animal was Anita. We have told the Germans of the results and we are waiting for their response," he said.

The dispute will strengthen suspicions among veterinary experts that cases of BSE on the Continent have been grossly under-reported . A Commission official said: "It is not definite that this was a German cow but there has to be some chance it was."

It could not have come at a worse time for the Germans who will today press EU veterinary experts to give their country official "BSE-free" status, along with seven other EU member states.


03 Mar 98 - MPs call for BSE funding review

By Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent

Independent ... Tuesday 3 March 1998


A Labour-dominated committee of MPs last night reinforced the message from the countryside march in London by warning the Government against "harsh" treatment for beef farmers and criticised Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, for failing to produce a long-term plan for the beef industry in the wake of the BSE crisis.

Calling for a review of Government spending on BSE, the committee said denying more aid to farmers could have "unintended harsh consequences for specialist beef producers, whose heavier finished animals are often not eligible for full compensation."

The committee said: "We think that farmers are right to expect the Government to treat them sympathetically."

The committee is chaired by Tory MP Peter Luff, but seven of its 11 MPs are Labour MPs and its findings cannot be brushed aside by the Agriculture ministers.

The MPs say that BSE could lead to a restructuring of the beef industry in Britain, with many farmers going out of business, but it says the piecemeal approach of Tony Blair's Government and previous ministers has failed to meet the challenge to the farming industry.

"Valuable time and money that could have been spent on restructuring the industry has been wasted for lack of a clear Government long-term strategy which would have assisted farmers to recognise the need for change," the committee said.

The committee was also worried that Dr Cunningham may be gradually withdrawing subsidy altogether. In evidence, the Agriculture Minister said he could think of no other product in the UK which received the same level of financial support as the beef sector, and appeared to rule out further aid.


01 Mar 98 - Patients offered own blood to cut infection

by Bryan Christie

Sunday Times ... Sunday 1 March 1998


More patients in Scotland are to be given the option of having transfusions of their own blood during routine operations. The move comes after a new scare over the safety of blood products .

A system already exists in some hospitals for patients to store their own blood over several weeks so that it can be used during an operation. Few do this, partly because hospitals seldom inform people about the facility.

Sir David Carter, Scotland's chief medical officer, is now calling for own-blood transfusions to be more widely available as part of a series of initiatives to reduce the risk of infection being passed on through blood supplies.

Although there is no evidence that British blood supplies are unsafe, there have been cases of contamination over the past few years with viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. The latest worry is the new form of CJD - the human equivalent of "mad cow" disease - which, as The Sunday Times revealed last week, has led to a review of the safety of certain blood products derived from human plasma.

There is no proof that the new variant CJD can be passed on in blood, but the government wants to reduce any risk wherever possible. Carter said he wants to ensure that patients are given transfusions only when they are needed and that the option of using their own blood is offered wherever possible. Other techniques can be used to recycle blood lost during operations to avoid the need for transfusions. "We need to look critically at all these measures," he said.

The use of a patient's own blood in operations - known as autologous transfusion - is popular in the United States, France and Italy. However, it is practical only for certain groups of patients and they must be carefully checked as there have been cases of heart failure in patients donating regular amounts of blood over a short period.

Carter accepted that such a programme had limitations. "On your best day only 5-10% of transfusions may be done in this way," he said. "That does not mean you should not do it."

There has also been little enthusiasm for the scheme in the National Health Service because blood can only be stored for a short time and the system depends on patients having surgery on the day they were promised. NHS operations are often cancelled at the last minute because of lack of beds.

Pat Dawson, director of the Scottish Association of Health Councils, which represents patients' interests in the NHS, said the main reason why the transfusions remain rare is that few people are told about them. "All patients going for major elective operations should be given some choice on this issue," he said. "For the peace of mind that it brings, the blood transfusion service should be gearing up in Scotland to make this more widely available."

In some parts of America doctors are required by law to inform patients of all transfusion options . In Britain, transfusions continue to be given without explanation. Professor Ian Franklin, medical director of the Scottish blood transfusion service, wants this to change. "We need to engage with patients more about what blood products and what treatment they are going to receive," he said. "At the moment the great majority are getting blood transfusions without any discussion. A significant proportion do not even know if they have been given blood during their operations."