An independent public inquiry under Lord Justice Phillips looked into the circumstances regarding the spread of the disease and its scientific and zoonotic origins, as well as its impact on victims.
The discovery of how it happened hardly exonerated the industry. One culprit turned out to be that the industry was recycling offal—cattle brain and spinal cords—into animal feed, essentially feeding cattle parts to cattle.
Response was swift and intense. Measures were introduced for a controlled slaughter of more than a million cows. Those over 30 months old—the gestation period of the mad cow disease “prion”—were culled and their carcasses destroyed.
Abattoirs were reformed to ensure the careful removal of offal. To assure consumers, the industry tested its beef, ordered up independent audits of those tests and publicized the results. A consumer-facing Quality Standard Mark was launched, carefully outlining the traceability of the product.
Nothing about this approach was temporary. More rigid standards and a robust public-assurance campaign persisted. Only within the last year did two of the global holdouts—China and Japan—lift their BSE-related bans on British beef.
Today, British beef is once again an aspirational product. The 20-year-plus story of its recovery is one of resilience in the face of a catastrophic collapse of confidence. Other sectors and products have faced similar losses of trust. Think retail banking, social media or vaccines. Each bears the responsibility to demonstrate resilience in recovering its position.
Above all, be prepared for the long haul. True resilience is not just about surviving a crisis—it is about the journey back from it.