Facing Catastrophe: Mad Cows and Emergency Policy-Making

August 1999 (VOL. 17, NO. 2)

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Discovery of an apparent link between eating infected beef and a rare human degenerative brain condition. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has necessitated life and death decisions by agriculture and health authorities in Britain, where the problem has thus far been concentrated. This slow developing health emergency shares many features in common with emergencies generally. The way in which this health crisis has been handled appears to have contributed to the apprehension and confusion of the British public, undermining confidence in those who must provide leadership in a stressful and costly crisis. After reviewing the development of the crisis, the author examines a number of features in policy-making in this case which could prove instructive with regard to hazard management and risk communication generally.