The UK government will give its first formal response to a critical report on the handling of the BSE crisis today. They are expected to comment on recommendations on production and processing of beef, ahead of a parliamentary debate on BSE next week. 

The report, conducted by Lord Phillips last year, listed 167 recommendations following an exhaustive inquiry into the crisis. In the report, Lord Phillips, criticised the failure of the previous Conservative government and their officials to be open with the public about the possibility of BSE spreading to humans. The present government is expected to address criticisms of the way scientific advice is sought and acted upon by governments.

The report exposed major shortcomings in the long drawn-out system of appointing expert committees, which caused delays and misunderstandings in the early days of BSE, holding up effective action to minimise the risks to the public.

The Food Standards Agency, set up in response to the BSE crisis, is now giving the independent and straightforward advice, which was not available at the time.

The main findings of Lord Phillips’ report included:

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*BSE developed into an epidemic as a result of an intensive farming practice – the recycling of animal protein in ruminant feed.

*A combination of delays and denials prompted the public to feel deceived and undermined their confidence in public statements.

*Failure to enforce a 1989 ban to prevent specified bovine offal – brain, spinal cord and other tissue – entering the human food chain.

*A failure to ensure proper communication between government departments meant the Department of Health was not kept informed of the increasing weight of evidence proving a link between BSE and vCJD.

*The link is now clearly established, though the manner of infection is not clear.