The man who dared to foretell the future

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 18 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1185

Ten years ago Tim Holt was the first doctor to voice concerns about the risks to human health from BSE, in an article in the BMJ. A recent witness at the BSE inquiry, he tells Caroline White what made him speak out

The temptation to say “I told you so” is hard to resist. But if Dr Tim Holt feels vindicated—that his predictions about the risk to human health from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) have come true—he is aware that few things can be proved beyond doubt and he is far from victorious. “I won't be famous unless a lot of people die; I'd rather live my life in obscurity.”

Now a GP serving a rural community in the moors of north Yorkshire, he leads a life considerably more tranquil than it was 10 years ago, when, as a junior doctor with no neurological expertise, he refused to accept the confident reassurances that food production processes would eliminate any risk of transmission of BSE to humans; transmission was “as unlikely as being struck by lightning,” according to Ray Bradley of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods.

Comparisons with the history of scrapie, which was first recorded in sheep in 1732 and which …

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