NEWS: Food scientists may have had their chips after BSE scare

For two weeks I have been asked only one question: ‘Well, how would you have handled it in No 10?’ The beef scare, that is. Given the circumstances, I suspect not much differently, apart from trying to persuade Ministers and officials to shut up until they had an agreed policy. This is because the real casualty of this study of authority trying to keep its head while everyone else around it was losing theirs is not Government. Nor the EC, which has behaved abominably. Nor is it food retailers, which have done what comes naturally and sought to protect their businesses, although buying Euro-beef is a rum way of doing it since BSE is abroad and Continental inspectorates are not noted for their rigour.

For two weeks I have been asked only one question: ‘Well, how would you

have handled it in No 10?’ The beef scare, that is. Given the

circumstances, I suspect not much differently, apart from trying to

persuade Ministers and officials to shut up until they had an agreed

policy. This is because the real casualty of this study of authority

trying to keep its head while everyone else around it was losing theirs

is not Government. Nor the EC, which has behaved abominably. Nor is it

food retailers, which have done what comes naturally and sought to

protect their businesses, although buying Euro-beef is a rum way of

doing it since BSE is abroad and Continental inspectorates are not noted

for their rigour.



It is not HM Loyal Opposition, which has ruthlessly played politics with

the beef industry. It is not even the media which, as usual, has had it

both ways, alternately causing panic in the streets and then criticising

others for running around like mad bullocks. Nor, in the long run, will

it be the beef industry since the latest scare will be put down to mad

humans. Shoppers have already started a run on beef counters because the

price has been slashed. So much for the terror of BSE.



Instead, the real casualties are scientists. Just imagine being asked to

pitch for a PR contract by the Society of Food Scientists to restore the

public’s faith in their authority. The Government cannot rely on them

any more and the public takes not a blind bit of notice of them. This is

not surprising since they have painfully revealed not just last month

but over a long period that they often haven’t a clue what they are

talking confidently about. For years they have been telling us what we

should and shouldn’t eat, to everyone’s utter confusion since they keep

changing their minds. The health effects of booze are the most recent

example. They are infected with faddish pressure groups who prattle on

about their elixir for a long and healthy life rather like broad-checked

purveyors of horse liniment in the best Westerns.



But, worse still, they are riddled with irresponsible and publicity-mad

academics, ever ready to frighten the living daylights out of ordinary,

carnivorous homo sapiens without regard for the consequences. These

hooligan elements among scientists think nothing of contradicting the

consensus of their eminent peers without, to judge from the vigour with

which they are denounced by their fellows, a scintilla of evidence to

support their claims.



Presented with this problem, any self-respecting PRO, seeking to restore

the public’s faith in food scientists, would prescribe a long period of

silence, a certain humility - and an instant cull of the empty-noddled

chatterers among them.



Sir Bernard Ingham writes for the Daily Express



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