THE DEPARTMENT OF Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been found to be selling beef from cows that have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), netting the Government around £10m a year.
An investigation into the sale of the meat was carried out by The Sunday Times, which found that the raw meat was being sold to some caterers and food processors, potentially finding its way into schools, hospitals and the military.
The meat – used by some of the biggest caterers in the country – is banned by many of the big fast food chains and supermarkets including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, who says it rejects it due to “public-health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumer health.”
Defra, which sells the meat without anything to warn processors or consumers that it comes from bTB-infected cattle, said in a statement: "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."
These assurances come just weeks after arguments that rises in bTB may have a serious affect on human health and were used a justification for the cull of thousands of badgers.
There are two forms of tuberculosis – a disease that affects the respiratory system. Human TB accounts for around 9,000 cases a year, with 40 people a year diagnosed with the bovine strain. However, only 60% of TB patients are actually tested for the bovine strain so the numbers are potentially as high as 60 cases.