The farming industry is determined to continue learning the lessons of this traumatic episode and move forward, NFU President Ben Gill said today in response to the BSE Inquiry report.

The report sets out clearly the mistakes that were made - they must never be made again, he said.

He said: "This has been an exhaustive and important inquiry, particularly for the victims of vCJD and their families. Farmers have co-operated fully at every step of the way.

"British agriculture has turned itself inside out to learn from this tragedy. Farming today is wiser and more capable than ever before of producing the safest food possible.

"The report concludes that BSE developed into an epidemic as a result of the recycling of animal protein in ruminant feed. That is a traditional practice throughout the world - it has now been stopped in the UK.

"This report must mark a watershed in the way we deal with food safety issues in the future. Many lessons have already been learned - we are applying those lessons every day. But we will study the report carefully to identify any further necessary procedures."

Mr Gill said that after 1996, new and more stringent controls were introduced and strictly enforced, such as a complete ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to all farm animals and the introduction of cattle passports.

He said: "It is clear from the inquiry that before March 1996, not all the controls needed were in place or properly enforced. The report sets out why and how this was allowed to happen.

"But what is important now is that the situation has radically changed - the entire beef chain is doing everything asked of it.

"Farmers have co-operated fully with all the new control measures which have been introduced and with the stringent on-farm inspections to enforce them. We have worked to introduce the computer database - the Cattle Tracing System - to track the lives of all cattle.

"We have supported the establishment of a Meat Hygiene Service to ensure higher standards and greater transparency in meat hygiene. We have given our backing to the setting up of the Food Standards Agency to provide independent and objective scrutiny.

"And we have taken the initiative to set up independently verified "farm assurance" schemes to given shoppers absolute confidence on food hygiene, animal welfare and traceability.

"The public have recognised these efforts - consumption of beef is now higher than it was before 1996."

He added: "The NFU and its legal team will now examine the inquiry report carefully with full regard to our members' legal rights."

Notes to editors:

A briefing document with further information on BSE and its impact on farming is available from the NFU press office on 020 7331 7397 or at www.nfu.org.uk under press releases.