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BSE: risk, science and governance$
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Patrick van Zwanenberg and Erik Millstone

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198525813

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198525813.001.0001

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Regulatory rigor mortis

Regulatory rigor mortis

(p.131) Chapter 6 Regulatory rigor mortis
BSE: risk, science and governance

Patrick van Zwanenberg

Erik Millstone

Oxford University Press

While MAFF ministers and officials often treated the conclusions of the SWP as if they had been definitive, the underlying science evolved rapidly. By contrast the regulatory regime seemed to have rigor mortis. Despite claims of ‘flexibility’ MAFF painted itself into a corner by asserting that risks to human health were non-existent. New expert committees were established, along with a ban on ‘specified bovine offal’, which was introduced primarily to pre-empt voluntary initiatives by the food industry. New evidence from ‘Mad Max’ of feline spongiform encephalopathy and similar pathologies in zoo animals was discounted, and the policy regime was defended against new evidence rather than developed in the light of that evidence. Eventually evidence that a novel form of Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease had emerged in young people, and that the most plausible cause was exposure to the BSE agent through food, torpedoed the UK government's approach to managing BSE.

Keywords:   policy rigor mortis, specified bovine offal ban, Mad Max, feline spongiform encephalopathy, mechanically recovered meat, CJD

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