Beef from approximately 28,000 slaughtered cows infected with bTB is being sold to hospital, school and military caterers by the Government, according to The Sunday Times.
The paper reports that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been compensating farmers for their infected cattle then selling on the carcases.
The meat is not marked as having come from infected animals because, Defra says, it has been judged safe for human consumption and therefore does not require labelling.
“All meat from cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB must undergo rigorous food safety checks before it can be passed fit for consumption,” said a Defra spokesperson. “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.”
The FSA confirmed that meat from cows with bTB did not need an additional label if it had been passed safe for human consumption.
It added that meat from animals with bTB lesions in more than one organ or region would be declared unsafe. If infection were found in only one organ or region the area would be removed and the meat passed safe.
Businesses including fast food chains and supermarkets refuse to sell the meat, Tesco because of “public health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumers”.
According to the newspaper, reassurances from Defra about the safety of the meat contrast with warnings from experts that rising levels of TB in cattle are becoming a serious threat to public health.