Farming News - FSA stands by bTB meat assurances

FSA stands by bTB meat assurances

17 Jul 2013
Frontdesk / Livestock


The Food Standards Agency has stood by its assurances that meat from bovine TB reactors is safe to eat.


At its Board Meeting on Thursday the issue was raised once again; the practice has been a subject of major contention in the UK since the beginning of the month, when anti-badger cull campaigners highlighted that Defra is engaged in selling the carcases of slaughtered bTB reactors into the food chain to recoup disease control costs, whilst claiming that badger culling is necessary due to 'human health' risks.  


Following an exposé in the Sunday Times newspaper, in which it was revealed the government sells meat from almost 90 percent of cattle slaughtered under TB controls, FSA was questioned about the practice at its open Board Meeting in London.  


FSA officials reiterated their defences of the practice, which were largely unchanged from those given at the beginning of July. They stated that any TB lesions detected in animals are removed and whole carcasses are destroyed if lesions are present in more than one area of the body. FSA executive Charles Milne pointed out that a recent risk assessment by EU health watchdog EFSA found the risk to humans from eating meat from TB animals to be "negligible."


FSA Chair Lord Rooker added, "The Chief Medical Officer Sally Davis has confirmed she is satisfied that the expert assessment from the FSA's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) shows that there is a very low risk from [bTB] in meat."


When the scandal over bTB meat first broke, the FSA said Agency meat hygiene inspectors check all meat before it enters the food chain to make sure it is fit for human consumption. An FSA spokesperson said at the time, "The FSA is confident that the inspection systems in place are robust, otherwise we would not allow this meat into the food chain.


"There is no documented case where a person has caught TB through eating meat. When people do contract bovine TB, it is usually through drinking unpasteurised milk or through prolonged contact with an infected animal."


Even so, retailers and processors ban the meat on the whole due to "public health concerns," but Defra sells meat from reactors without any labelling indicating its provenance. The Department sold meat from 28,000 animals in 2012, making an estimated £10 million.


Senior FSA officials said on Tuesday that, as there is no legal requirement to do so, the Agency would continue to support the lack of labelling on meat from TB reactors.