How '3,000 tonnes of tuberculosis infected beef' ends up on plates in France each year

The Local France
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How '3,000 tonnes of tuberculosis infected beef' ends up on plates in France each year
Photo: AFP

The French public were shocked to learn this week that each year 3,000 tonnes of meat from cows contaminated with tuberculosis ends up on supermarket shelves. The government insists there is nothing to worry about.


Some 8,000 cows infected with tuberculosis are slaughtered each year in France.
Most of the meat from those cows, some 3,000 tonnes ends up on consumers' plates without them having any idea that they are eating part of an infected animal.
The revelations were published by France's Canard Enchainé newspaper.
And although they sound alarming there is nothing in fact illegal about the practice and the French government has been eager to play down fears.
Food standards authorities in France and indeed in the EU insist that as long as the specific infected parts of the animal are removed in the slaughtering process then the rest of the cow is safe to eat and there is no risk of infection being transferred to humans.
France's Direction Generale de l'alimentation stressed that "in the last 30 years in France no one has caught tuberculosis by eating beef." 
In France when cows test positive for tuberculosis there is a strict procedure that follows.
The animal is sent to the abattoir. A vet will then examine the carcass and judge whether the meat is safe to eat. If tuberculosis lesions are found to be only in certain "localised" areas then those parts of the carcass are removed and the rest is sold for meat.
Only in the cases where tuberculosis is found to be "generalized" is there considered to be a risk of contamination and the cow cannot be sold for meat.
Nevertheless there is no zero-risk when it comes to the possibility of people being infected.
And while beef eaters might have no need to worry, the same cannot be said for those who work in farming.
The Canard Enchainé claims there are around 50 cases each year in France of humans being contaminated by tuberculosis from animals, notably cattle breeders, vets and people who drink unpasteurized milk.
There were similar alarm bells ringing in France when it emerged British beef infected with tuberculosis was being transported across the channel and sold in French supermarkets.
It emerged that many supermarkets and fast food chains like Burger King and McDonald's refused to buy the meat, Le Figaro reported.



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