Diseased Meat From Cows With Tuberculosis Secretly Sold For Burgers And Pies By The Government
It has been flogging off beef that has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis for human consumption, making up to £10million a year Sc...
It has been flogging off beef that has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis for human consumption, making up to £10million a year
Schoolkids, hospital patients and the Armed Forces may all have unwittingly eaten diseased meat after it was secretly sold – by the Government.
In a shocking new public health scare it was revealed today the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been flogging off beef that has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis for human consumption.
The department has been making up to £10million a year by offloading the meat to slaughterhouses since 2007.
And, astonishingly, a Defra spokesman insisted that it was safe to eat as the infection risk was “extremely low”.
The beef, from around 28,000 diseased animals a year, is banned by most supermarkets and burger chains.
But via the slaughterhouses it is going to some caterers and food processors – and finding its way into schools, hospitals and the military.
Some of it goes into snacks such a burgers, pies and pasties, while some ends up as pet food.
Major supermarkets such as Tesco refuse to touch the diseased meat due to “public health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumers”.
But Defra sells it without any warning to processors or consumers that it comes from bTB infected cattle, it is claimed.
Tory MP Anne McIntosh, chairwoman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, said the public should not be kept in the dark.
She said: “People need to know what they are eating. We need to know why this meat is being released on the market.”
When the Food Standards Agency finds cattle have been infected, the farmer is automatically compensated.
But a small percentage of the diseased meat passes a risk assessment test saying it is suitable for human consumption.
The carcasses are then sold to slaughterhouses around the UK.
The ministry’s assurances about the infected meat contrast with recent warnings by its own experts, who say rising levels of bTB in cattle are becoming a serious threat to human health.
They have used such claims to justify a cull of tens of thousands of badgers said to help spread the disease between cattle.
Dr Martin Wiselka, an expert in infectious diseases at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “I’m a bit surprised as I thought infected cattle were removed from the food chain.
“The risk is small provided the meat is cooked to a high temperature all through to destroy the bacteria.
"Having said that I wouldn’t want to eat meat from an animal that has TB.
“Although very small, the risk is not absolutely zero. You can’t guarantee that by removing an infected gland you are removing all the bacteria.
“It’s possible it can get into a human. If you eat the bacteria and its passes through your stomach into your system you can get infected.”
Nigel Gibbens, Defra’s chief vet, warned recently: “If we do not maintain and improve our bTB controls… the risk of infection to other mammals and humans will inevitably increase.”
And in an interview with the scientific journal Nature, Ian Boyd, the department’s chief scientist, also warned that bTB could “spill over” to pets and “potentially to humans”.
But a Defra spokesman insisted: “All meat from cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB must undergo rigorous food safety checks before it can be passed fit for consumption.
“The Food Standards Agency has confirmed there are no known cases where TB has been transmitted through eating meat and the risk of infection from eating meat, even if raw or undercooked, remains extremely low."
However, experts say that mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium that causes bTB, can survive cooking at up to 60C.
Of the two main forms of tuberculosis, human TB is by far the most prevalent at around 9,000 UK cases a year – while the bovine strain is diagnosed in around 40 people.
Only about 60% of all TB victims are tested to see which strain is responsible. The real number of people suffering bTB is probably at least 70 a year.
According to Public Health England, for every person who develops the disease, another 10 become infected, but never develop symptoms – suggesting 600 to 700 people may be infected by mycobacterium bovis each year.
PHE’s website says: “Transmission can occur between animals, from animals to humans and, rarely, between humans.”
Bovine TB can take decades to develop so it is hardly ever possible to say whether any one person was infected by milk, meat or contact with animals.
One organic farmer said: “I’d rather eat something that had TB rather than filled with all sorts of drugs.
“People have got used to having cheap food and if you want cheap, you can’t afford to be picky.”
Ministry hit by another public health row
DEC 2012: A row erupted after Defra said collecting refuse once a fortnight increased recycling. MPs called weekly collections a “basic right” and the idea was rejected.
JAN 2013: A scandal embroiled the food industry after horse meat was found in products claiming to be beef.
Around 10 million suspect burgers were taken off shelves by retailers including Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores.
Defra was criticised for allowing large quantities of horse meat to pass through UK’s food chain.
JUNE 2013: From the start of this month, farmers in two pilot areas in the south west of England have been permitted to shoot badgers to control TB in cattle – about 5,000 badgers will be culled.
Defra says action is needed to tackle bovine TB but groups against the cull say it will have no impact and could lead to local populations of badgers being wiped out.