LONDON – The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom reportedly sells beef for human consumption from cows that have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, The Sunday Times reported.
The federal agency sells beef to some caterers and food processors that supply schools, hospitals and the military, according to the Times. However, most hamburger chains and retailers, such as Tesco, reject the meat on public health concerns, according to the report. The meat that is sold is not labeled as coming from infected animals. DEFRA, however, called the story "irresponsible scaremongering" in a statement on its web site.
"The Food Standards Agency has confirmed there are no known cases where someone has contracted TB from eating meat,” the statement said. "All meat from cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB 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.
"The risks have been reviewed by the Food Standards Agency’s independent advisory expert panel [the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food] in 2002 and 2010 and by the European Food Safety Authority," the statement concluded.
A 2002 report by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMF) advised the UK's Food Standards Authority that meat from TB infected cows should be heat treated, according to the Independent
. ACMF warned of potential risks of eating undercooked or raw meat from animals with bovine tuberculosis, although experts agree the risk of human infection remains very low.
The UK badger population is thought to aid in the spread of the disease among cows, and tens of thousands of badgers have been culled to stem the spread of the disease.