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The nature and extent of the risk of human exposure to Mycobacterium bovis, the cause of tuberculosis in cattle, posed by the consumption of meat and in particular meat derived from cattle that have reacted positively to a tuberculin test or otherwise, display lesions of tuberculosis at slaughter were assessed. Account was taken of the characteristics of the causal agent and the measures taken at farm level to control the disease in cattle together with the procedures in place to identify and remove from the food chain those bovine carcases affected with generalised tuberculosis and the affected parts of those carcases that show localised evidence of the disease at slaughter.
Account was taken also of the low numbers of reported human cases of tuberculosis due to M. bovis in the Member States, the majority of which occurred either in the elderly as the result of the recrudescence of infection acquired in early life or in immigrants from developing countries. There was a lack of evidence of involvement of contaminated meat as a vehicle of such infection since the mid 1900’s and no such documented case was identified following the introduction of current meat inspection procedures in Member States.
It was concluded that, provided the measures in operation currently to control tuberculosis in cattle during the pre-harvest phases of production together with the current meat inspection requirements are applied in compliance with the relevant legislation, the level of risk to be associated with the consumption of meat is considerably low. There is no evidence to suggest that additional restrictions on the use of beef from tuberculin reactor cattle and from carcases with or without localised lesions of tuberculosis will contribute to the prevention of tuberculosis due to M. bovis under these circumstances. Meat plant surveillance for tuberculosis in slaughter cattle augments ante-mortem monitoring of the tuberculosis status of national herds. This combination represents best practice.