10 July 2000
Food agency denies TB beef inquiry

By FWi staff

THE Food Standards Agency has dismissed as untrue reports that it is launching an inquiry into the risk to humans from TB-infected beef.

The government has asked agency officials to assess the health risks from eating beef “salvaged” from TB-infected cattle, according to some media reports.

Up to 3000t of meat – worth about 5 million – from infected cattle was sold in the past year for human consumption, the Sunday Times reported on 9 July.

“Concern about the potential threat has now prompted the Food Standards Agency to launch an inquiry into whether some of the 100 humans who get bovine tuberculosis each year are contracting it from such meat,” said the paper.

But an agency official told Farmers Weekly: “We are not actually launching a full-on inquiry into this. Its not actually going ahead.”

The official added: “This is largely an animal health issue. Bovine TB in particular is not exactly top of the agenda in terms of public health.”

Selling beef from TB-infected animals – a practice endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture – was first reported by Farmers Weekly last April.

Any infected lesions are removed from the carcasses. But fears remain that invisible “micro-lesions” remain and could infect people handling the meat.

At the time, Ministry of Agriculture officials were in the process of asking the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to assess any risk from the meat.

A ministry spokesman said vets, rather than the Food Standards Agency, were being commissioned, because bovine TB was seen as veterinary matter.