UK agriculture minister Nick Brown pledged that future governments would do all in their power to prevent a repeat of the BSE scandal during the 1990s

Brown, opening a parliamentary debate on Lord Phillips’ BSE report, acknowledged that the inquiry into the outbreak identified ‘serious shortcomings’ in the handling of the affair by previous Conservative governments.

Mr Brown said: “The whole approach and behaviour of departments and individuals will need to change to ensure that the lessons identified by the inquiry are properly absorbed and implemented.”

Mr Brown said the report found that many of those dealing with the problem ‘hoped and believed’ that a link between BSE and humans would never be found.

“The official line that the risk of transmissibility was remote and that beef was safe did not recognise the possible validity of any other view. Dissident scientists tended to be treated with derision.

“There has been a significant loss of public confidence in the arrangements for handling food safety and standards, in large part due to the events surrounding BSE.”