TB cattle entering human food chain: report

Tens of thousands of diseased cattle slaughtered because they have bovine tuberculosis are being sold for human consumption, a report said.

The Sunday Times reported that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was selling the carcasses although some experts consider this may be a risk to human health.

Raw meat from about 28,000 cows a year with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is being sold to caterers and food processors, where it may be served in schools, hospitals and the military, the report said.

DEFRA does not attach any warnings to the meat because it says the risk of infection is "extremely low".

But the report said many supermarkets and fast food chains would not accept such meat because of health concerns.

Tesco said it did not take it due to "public-health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumers".

Bovine tuberculosis is the reason for a controversial planned cull of tens of thousands of badgers, which are said to help spread the disease between cattle.

The chief veterinarian at DEFRA, Nigel Gibbens, said the cull was needed because "If we do not maintain and improve our bTB controls... the risk of infection to other mammals and humans will inevitably increase," the report said.

About 40 cases of bovine tuberculosis are diagnosed in humans each year, against about 9,000 cases of the human tuberculosis strain.