'Once again Labour are trying to whip up public fears about BSE in an attempt to score cheap political points.
'There is nothing new in this story. It has long been a matter of public record that in the early days of the BSE epidemic, some 6,117 carcasses of BSE suspects were disposed of in registered landfill sites in Great Britain. The practice was stopped six years ago when sufficient incineration capacity became available.
'Just to be certain, I asked the government's independent advisory body on BSE, SEAC, to look into this specific issue a year ago. They concluded that 'it was unlikely that leachate from landfill sites would present a significant risk and there was certainly no justification for taking heroic measures to excavate sites, even those which had previously been used for material such as BSE-confirmed cattle'.
'The MAFF press office has freely made available to the Independent newspaper a list of the landfill sites concerned. It is important that the public has the full picture. I therefore asked the environment agency two months ago to carry out an assessment of the status of the sites. As I explained in my letter to Gavin Strang, on 13 March, I will publish the complete information as soon as the environmental agency's work is completed.
'This latest example of Labour scaremongering is typical of the party's disgraceful behaviour throughout the BSE crisis. Once again it is the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on British beef who could pay the price'.