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When Food Kills: Bse, E. Coli, and Disaster Science Hardcover – 18 Sep 2003

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (18 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198525176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198525172
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.3 x 15.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,409,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Pennington writes with intimate knowledge not only of the science but also of regulations and committees ... Very well informed and wide-ranging. (The Scientific and Medical Network Review)

... a fascinating read, packed with wry observations of human social behaviour ... The book is informative and thought-provoking and I recommend it highly for any who might be under the spotlight next time there is a microbiological disaster - which there will be! (MicroBiology Today)

.... he embraces the historical, legal and scientific aspects of his subject, though he is best when dealing with the political aspects

... a thought-provoking and in-depth look at a handful of relatively recent food scares in Britain - including the outbreak of E. coli 0157 and the emergence of variant CJD. (M2 Best Books)

This book has a refreshing underlying belief in the possibility of progress. (The Lancet)

Pennington's passionate commitment to the explanatory power of scientific understanding is the laudable central quality that gives this book undeniable importance and relevance. (The Lancet)

Pennington has written a defence of science in the service of society that is as accessible to the general reader as it is timely and of great importance. (The Lancet)

... memorable examples of the human propensity to ignore danger signals until it is too late. (Nature)

Consumers' interest in food is at an all time high ... However, there is also a great deal of misinformation in the general media. Hugh Pennington's reputation for independence and sound science will carry weight with the target audience. (Dame Sheila McKechnie, Director, Consumers' Association)

Riveting is not a word to use lightly, in a review or anywhere else. But it is exactly the word for Professor Hugh Pennington's forensic filleting of cases. (The Scotsman)

His careful, sleuth-like, and entertaining documentation of events shows that the two things that helped E-coli and BSE cause so much harm was " a failure to learn from history, and failure to understand science". (Lancet Journal of Infectious Diseases)

Pennington's detailed reconstruction of the E.coli outbreak in Scotland in 1996 and the origins of BSE makes clear how much is at stake. It also makes an important contribution to the growing revisionist debate about whether eating infected meat is really the cause of BSE and vCJD. (Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian)

About the Author

Professor T.H. Pennington is Head of Department of Medical Microbiology, and a frequent commentator on radio and television where his opinion is sought on a wide range of infectious diseases ranging from necrotising fasciitis (the infamous and much-hyped flesh eating bacteria) to smallpox. His particular expertise lies in the science of food poisoning and the links between science, policy and the media. He is perhaps best known for the Pennington Group Report, on the circumstances leading to the 1996 outbreak of infection with E.coli O157 in Central Scotland. Pennington led the independent inquiry that was set up at the time, amidst a blaze of publicity.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is more than just an interesting account of some notable public health crises, primarily the VTEC outbreak in Lanarkshire and the BSE-nvCJD problem. The author discusses the failure of safety procedures at the organisational level and compares these with other disasters such as Piper-alpha. This approach is, to my knowledge, entirely novel in a popular science book concerning infectious disease and is very welcome.
I also very much enjoyed the description of historical investigations into illness in mental institutions and railway accidents and how the many government inspectorates evolved.
On the negative side, there are many typos in the text, the number of which varies greatly between chapters, which is indicative of bad editing. The tone of some of the writing is a little self-congratulatory and the description of the sequence of events leading up to the 0157 outbreak in Wishaw is poorly written.

Overall, this is worth the somewhat high cover price for a novel and entertaining take on some very important subjects, much neglected by popular literature. Those seeking detailed coverage of BSE, nvCJD and other prion diseases would be better served by getting hold of the excellent 'Fatal Protein' by Ridley and Baker.
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Format: Hardcover
The author draws parallels between food- and non-food-related disasters, the message being that similar mistakes were made in all of them and lessons can and should be learned from all of them. This point can be made with considerable more brevity than used in this title. Rather than long, detailed, blow-by-blow accounts of rail disasters and mining disasters and nuclear disasters and oil-rig disasters etc etc etc, it would have been better to make passing reference to these and concentrate on the the issue suggested in the title of this book.
As a result, it takes a long time to get to where you're going, and the journey doesn't seem particularly worthwhile. A firm and determined editor could have made this book more readable and accessible.
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