Fears have been raised over the safety of Irish beef for human consumption following the publication of a damning EU report on bovine TB.

The report, prepared by the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), claimed that while the eradication campaign was generally in compliance with EU legislation, it contained shortcomings in some areas. Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Food has “strongly contested in writing” some of the issues raised.

The report’s inspectors criticised one abattoir visited for not slaughtering TB reactor cattle separately from animals destined for the food chain, and for not taking sufficient precautions to avoid carcase contamination. They noted staff did not wear masks when slaughtering and only washed aprons and boots with disinfectant, which was not effective against the TB micro-bacterium. They claimed only a few of the animal transporters made use of the cleaning facilities at the market they visited, and cleanliness of the vehicles varied greatly.

In one of the six holdings visited, the inspectors said they found discrepancies between the number of cattle recorded on the register and the number of passports. They alleged an EU requirement that cattle remain in a single holding for 30 days prior to export was not observed, and that a dairy plant used milk from restricted herds without official authorisation.

Although €38.3m was spent on eradication in 2006, bovine TB remained high, with the annual number of reactor animals remaining above 20,000, the report said.

But the department rejected suggestions the campaign had been a fruitless exercise. 

It also claimed the inspectors were guilty of “over-estimating any perceived risk to human consumption”, adding that its staff verified cleaning and disinfection procedures at marts and on transport vehicles on a monthly basis.

It also pointed out that of the six holdings visited by the inspectors, five were found to be fully compliant with regulations.