No evidence that Mycoplasma bovis can affect humans through the food chain, and therefore is not a food safety risk

The NZ Food Safety Science & Research Centre would like to join others in reassuring the public that Mycoplasma bovis does not present a food safety risk to humans.  We endorse this information given on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website:

What is Mycoplasma bovis?

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that can cause a range of conditions in cattle including mastitis that don’t respond to treatment – pneumonia, arthritis and late-term abortions.

The disease may be dormant in an animal causing no disease at all. But in times of stress (for example, calving, drying-off, transporting, or being exposed to extreme weather) it may shed bacteria in milk and nasal secretions. As a result, other animals may be infected and become ill or carriers themselves.

There is no evidence that it will infect and cause disease in humans through the food chain and therefore there is no evidence that it presents a food safety risk. It is an animal welfare and productivity issue.

This is the first time it has been found in New Zealand. The bacteria is an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Mycoplasma bovis is not listed with the OIE (the world animal health organisation) and does not present a trade risk for New Zealand animal products. Internationally, the disease is managed by farmers through:

•good biosecurity practices on their farms

•careful selection of replacement stock and breeding bulls

•keeping herds in a good state of health.

There is no evidence that Mycoplasma bovis is a food safety risk. It is a disease that affects animal welfare and production. It affects only cattle, including dairy cows and beef cattle. It is common in many food-producing nations where infected animals that are not showing symptoms are processed for human consumption.

Cattle that are slaughtered in New Zealand as part of measures to control Mycoplasma bovis are processed in line with standard procedures. Before leaving the farm, they are assessed by vets to confirm they are fit for transport. At the processing plants, MPI veterinarians assess the health of each animal before slaughter.

Any animals that are sick, severely injured, or have any medication in their system are not processed for human consumption. This is a requirement of New Zealand law. All animals are also examined after slaughter to ensure the meat is safe and suitable for consumption.

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