Strong rebuttal of Sunday Times’ bTB claims

Meat industry leaders and the government have hit back at claims made by The Sunday Times stating consumers are at risk of contracting bovine tuberculosis (bTB) through eating meat.

According to a Sunday Times report, meat from tens of thousands of cattle with bTB has been sold for human consumption by Defra. It claimed the meat was making its way into schools, hospitals and other parts of the foodservice sector.

British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) director Stephen Rossides said his organisation believed there “are no food safety concerns, providing legislation requirements are met”. He explained that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra have said food safety concerns are low and the meat is safe, following the Sunday Times’ report last weekend, which claimed to have uncovered potential risk of consumers contracting TB.

A Defra statement said: “All meat from cattle slaughtered due to bTB must undergo rigorous food safety checks before the meat is passed as fit for consumption. As a result, the risk is extremely low, regardless of whether or how the meat is cooked.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson from the FSA also said the risk from eating meat from “TB reactor” animals was very low. “The FSA ensures that all meat that enters the food chain is fit for human consumption through ante- and post-mortem meat inspection. Where inspection reveals tuberculous lesions in more than one organ or region of the carcase, it is declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed.”

The spokesperson added that when a TB lesion has been found in the lymph nodes of only one organ or part of the carcase, only the affected organ or part of the carcase and the associated lymph nodes are declared unfit for human consumption. “The remaining meat is considered safe to enter the food chain.”

Vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union Adam Quinney said: “Defra applies strict guidelines for processing meat which has tested positive for bTB. These EU-wide regulations that we apply are based upon internationally agreed guidelines and are the same as those followed by many countries around the world, including Ireland.”


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