We can eat cattle with TB without risks: Defra chief
CATTLE infected by tuberculosis (TB) are safe for human consumption, the chief scientist of Defra has reassured people.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Echo, Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said there was "no reasonable chance of cross infection" from people eating beef from infected cows.
The Government has been testing out a method of badger culling across Gloucestershire and Somerset to control bovine TB.
More than 28,000 cattle were slaughtered for TB control in England lasT year, with 1,930 in Gloucestershire alone.
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The estimated value of the diary industry in Gloucestershire is £55.8 million.
Any cattle infected with TB have to be slaughtered immediately, and their farms closed for further inspection in case the disease spreads to other wildlife.
Farmers have insisted the cull is necessary, with Defra insisting vaccination will not cure sick badgers and would not stop infected badgers continuing to spread the disease for years ahead.
Prof Boyd said: "Partly we want to test the humaneness and the safety and the impact of culling badger for controlling bTB in cattle.
"We are not doing a scientific study, but rather we are testing methods for possibly using culling as a method of controlling bTB, within the context of mainly other methods we are using culling as one part of a range of methods of our strategy to control bTB.
"There is no reasonable chance and evidence of cross infection into people from eating beef, according to the chief medical officer. There are some strong controls. The Food Standards Agency considers that the risk to human health from bovine TB through consumption of meat is very low and current evidence does not indicate a food safety issue.
"The other thing I want to point out is there is a wrong perception about trying to wipe out badgers. We are not. What we are doing is reducing the density in the specific areas to get rid of bTB, than allow the population to recover, but without the scourge of bTB.
"What we want to do is to develop a full range of methods available to use in the future. Culling is just one method to reduce the number of infected badgers in population."
Roger Mortlock, chief executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the first non- Government organisation in England to launch a badger vaccination programme, said: "We are very conscious of the hardship that bTB causes our farming community.
"However science clearly shows that a badger cull is not the solution to bTB.
"This cull is a distraction and gets in the way of implementing the right mechanisms to control this disease through improved biosecurity and the roll out of cattle and badger vaccines."