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Meat from TB infected cattle – government TB management system failing ‘from farm to fork’ says wildlife charity

Meat from TB infected cattle is being eaten widely by unsuspecting consumers – government TB management system failing ‘from farm to fork’ says wildlife charity.

Meat from more than 20,000 cattle per year infected with bovine TB (bTB) has been allowed into the food chain by the government, posing an unnecessary risk to human health, according to a report in the Sunday Times yesterday.

Acting on information given to a journalist by Care for the Wild, the newspaper has revealed that meat from over 88% of the 28,000 TB cows slaughtered in England in 2012 entered the food chain.(1)

The infected meat is not labelled as coming from TB cattle and there is no traceability system in place, according to information provided by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) under a Freedom of Information request.

DEFRA and the FSA have confirmed they keep no record of where TB meat is in the food chain. Most of the major food retailers have confirmed they would not sell TB meat as this is not acceptable to their customers, but as no traceability records are kept there seems to be no guarantee that it isn’t being served in schools, hospitals, to our armed services or in the wider food chain.

Philip Mansbridge, CEO of international wildlife charity Care for the Wild, said:  “We felt people should know about this because the government are surging forward with an unpopular badger cull based on the argument that they know what’s best for farmers, and for the public. But this scandal exposes the complete failure of their bovine TB management system, from farm to fork.

“The government has repeatedly said that badgers must be culled for reasons including ‘human health’(2).  But this justification is completely undermined by the fact they are placing large quantities of TB meat into the food supply chain without any labelling or cooking advice, which puts the public at risk.

“Along with a catalogue of flawed justifications regarding the figures and the science, this shows that the government has no real justification for the planned cull and will use any means it can to attempt to win sympathy from an unsympathetic public.

“This government’s bovine TB policy is unravelling before our eyes. It’s bad for farmers and tax payers; it’s putting public health at risk and could result in the senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of badgers.”

Care for the Wild is a charity based in Sussex dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the UK and abroad. For more information or if you would like to support our work, see www.careforthewild.com.

 

  1. Figures provided by the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory.
  2. Recent examples of the government linking bovine TB with human health:

Owen Paterson, Farmers Guardian 5th June 2013: after second debate: Mr Paterson began by stressing that the debate was ‘about getting to grips with a disease – a bacterium which can affect all mammals, including humans’ and ‘has proved to be extremely resistant to all manner of attempts at eradication’.

Nigel Gibbens, Daily Telegraph, 31st May 2013: On the other side, Nigel Gibbens, the Government’s chief vet, has ramped up the pressure by describing bovine TB as “out of control” and an eventual threat to human health – and saying that Brussels could ban British cattle exports if the cull does not go ahead.

Nigel Gibbens, Indpendent, 30th May 2013: Tuberculosis in cattle could spread to humans unless the UK takes bold action to curb of the disease in the country’s badger population, Britain’s chief vet warned today.

 

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