Well you probably know that it can strike out of the blue and infect
cattle at random within a herd. Cattle have to undergo periodic
testing for TB, and a positive TB test results in the animal’s slaughter.
This issue was raised in a recent episode of BBC1’s “Countryfile”, and
came up again on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today (on 12 July).
My wife, Mrs C, tunes in to the radio most mornings owing to her
insomnia, and told me about the programme … I listened to it myself
on BBC IPlayer … for those of you who are in the UK, here is the link
to the programme …
I heard on the radio that the slaughtered animals (those which test
positive for TB) are inspected at an abattoir by a vet to decide if
the meat can be sold on for human consumption … (consumption, now
there’s a pun). If no more than one visible TB lesion is found in the
carcass, then it’s deemed safe to eat.
This whole process is governed by DEFRA, which thinks that there is a
negligible risk to human health from eating this meat … a view shared by
the Food Standards Agency and by vetinary bodies too.
DEFRA earns £58 million a year from the sale of this meat, and the money
is used to compensate the farmers. I gather from the Farming Today
programme that only one per cent of TB cases in this country is thought
to be bovine in origin, and that most cases are in people who drink
unpasteurized milk and those who are animal handlers.
Cooking the meat thoroughly would greatly reduce the risk of TB
transmission, however many people like to eat their steaks very rare,
almost dripping with blood.
There are no plans to label such meat as being from TB positive cattle.
Would you buy meat off the supermarket shelf if it were labelled as such?
I doubt if you would.
I found a couple of articles which might interest you ...
A DEFRA article on Bovine TB ...
Wikipedia article on pasteurization ...